PR 07215.044 Rhode Island
A. PR 00-031 Purchase of Property by Representative Payees on Behalf of Minor Children
DATE: February 18, 1999
In Region I (Boston), the States of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont all allow a minor to hold title to both real and personal property.
The Associate Commissioner for the Office of Program Benefits has requested our opinion on whether or not minors may hold title to real or personal property. Specifically she has requested whether there are any restrictions regarding the age of the minor, the type of property that may be held, the specific method of titling the property, and, in that case where a minor may not hold property in his own name, the preferred method for titling property to reflect the minor's interest. For the reasons discussed below, it is our opinion that Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont all allow a minor to hold title to both real and personal property.
Clear statutory authority exists for the ownership of an automobile by a minor. Gen. Laws 1956, § 31-33-11. "Owner" is defined under the statute as "[a] person who holds the legal title to a vehicle.... " Id. at § 31-1-17(b). The statutes are not as clear on whether minors may hold title to real property. The State has adopted the UTMA under which minors acquire "indefeasibly vested" interest in the property transferred. Gen. Laws 1956, §§ 18-7-1 to 18-7-27. The UTMA allows for the transfer of both real and personal property. However, the laws are silent on property acquired outside the UTMA.
Notwithstanding the silence of the statutes, the case law indicates that minors may hold title to real property. In a suit to quiet title, the Supreme Court of Rhode Island held that the minor, sole heir to the estate of her mother, was the only individual with title or interest in the premises and thus suit could not be brought against her guardian. Lawton v. Fox, 133 A. 348 (R.I., 1926). Likewise, in Edwards v. Cardarelli, et al., 14 A.2d 693, 695 (R.I. 1940), the court noted that "it is well settled that a guardian ...is merely vested with power to control and manage" the estate of its ward. "Both legal and beneficial titles remain in the ward." Id. Therefore, it would appear that minors may be the titleholder of both real and personal property.
There do not appear to be any restrictions on the age in which title vests in the minor. Nor do there appear to be any specific requirements on how the property is to be titled to show the minor as titleholder.
1/A guardian may sell a minor's personal property without a license from the court in order to pay debts. M.G.L.A. 201 § 37.