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
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.