You requested a legal opinion regarding the purchase of property by representative
payees on behalf of minor children. Below is Region II's response for the States of
New Jersey and New York, and the territories of Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands.
1. Does the State permit a minor to hold title to real or personal property?
Yes. There are no express barriers to a minor holding title to any type of property.
The age of majority is 18. V.I. Code Ann. tit. 16 § 261 (1995). However, the law recognizes
emancipation conferring the power to administer property, emancipation by marriage,
and provides for judicial emancipation. V.I. Code Ann. tit. 16 § 221. A minor who
has completed the age of 16 years can be emancipated for the purpose of administering
his property by parental consent and a decree of the dish-let court. V.I. Code Ann.
tit. 16 § 231. Emancipation by the court allows the minor to govern his person and
property as if he had reached the age of majority. V.I. Code Ann. tit. 16 § 233. Additionally,
although a minor becomes emancipated by marriage, he or she cannot alienate or mortgage
real property, or contract loans, without the consent of a parent or guardian. V.I.
Code Ann. tit. 16 § 241.
The ability of minors to own property has been the subject of case law. In re Penn,
29 V.I. 396 (3d Cir. 1994).
2. Does the State place restrictions as to the age of the minor or the types of property
that can be held?
No. However, although an emancipated minor can govern his property as if he were 18,
until he actually attains majority, he cannot make any promise or contract any obligation
exceeding the value of his income for one year. He is also prohibited from encumbering
or selling his real property without the consent of the court. V.I. Code Ann. tit.
16 § 233.
3. Are there any. specific requirements to show how the property should or must be
titled to show the minor as owner?
No such requirements were found.
4. If a State does not permit a minor to hold title to property, or does not permit
the property to be titled or registered in the minor's name, what is the preferred
method of titling the property to reflect the minors interest in the property and
satisfy SSA regulatory requirements?