You requested a formal legal opinion on a State-by-State basis addressing four issues
relating to whether minors can hold title to certain types of property and how the
property must be titled. My original response was submitted January 19, 1999. During
a telephone conference on April 21, 1999, the regions were asked to revise their opinions.
Below are the revised responses for the States in the Seattle Region (Alaska, Idaho,
Oregon, and Washington).
1. Does Washington permit a minor to hold title to real property or personal property
such as an automobile?
Generally, a minor may hold title to real and personal property. See, e.g., Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 11.114.110. A minor cannot, however, own a motor vehicle
unless the minor is on active duty in the United States armed forces, is emancipated,
was the registered owner prior to August 11, 1969, or became the owner of a motor
vehicle while a nonresident of Washington. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 46.12.250.
Where a minor's property is managed through a custodianship established under the
Washington UTMA, Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §§ 11.114.010-11.114.904, legal title to the
property remains "indefeasibly vested" in the minor. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 11.114.110(2).
However, the custodian has all the rights, powers, duties and authority provided in
the Washington UTMA, and neither the minor nor his/her legal representative has any
right, power, duty or authority with respect to the custodial property except as provided
in the UTMA. Id. The custodian distributes some property when the minor reaches age 18, and other
property when the minor reaches age 21. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 11.114.200.
Custodial property may be created and a transfer is made if securities, money, a life
or endowment insurance policy or annuity contract, irrevocable exercise of a power
of appointment or an irrevocable present right to future payment under a contract,
interest in real property, certificate of title to tangible personal property or any
other interest in property is transferred, paid, delivered, registered, recorded or
delivered by a written instrument followed in substance by the words: "... as custodian
for... (name of minor) under the Washington uniform transfers to minors act." Wash.
Rev. Code Ann. § 11.114.090.
Where a minor's property is managed under the terms of a trust document, Wash. Rev.
Code Ann. §§ 11.97.010-11.98.070, the trustee holds legal title to the property. Davidson v. Mantor, 45 Wash. 660, 662 (Wash. 1907). The trustee distributes property and legal title
under the terms of the trust document. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 11.97.010. If a trustee
irrevocably transfers a minor's property to a custodianship under the Washington UTMA,
see, Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §§ 11.114.050 and 11.114.060, legal title reverts to the minor
under Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 11.114.110 (2).
Where a guardian has been appointed to protect the minor's property, Wash. Rev. Code
Ann. §§ 11.76.095, 11.88.010-11.92.140, the minor holds legal title. See, e.g., In re Fuiimoto's Guardianship, 130 Wash. 188, 192 (Wash. 1924); Hansen v. Lindell, 129 P.2d 234, 240 (Wash. 1942).
There are no provisions for conservatorships in Washington.
2. Are there any restrictions in Washington as to the age of the minor or the types
of property that can be held?
For purposes of the Washington UTMA, a minor is "an individual who has not attained
the age of twenty-one years." Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 11.114.010(11).
A person age 18 or above has the authority to "enter into any legal contractual obligation
and to be legally bound thereby to the full extent as any other adult person." Wash.
Rev. Code Ann. § 26.28.015. As for a person under age 18, Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 26.28.030
A minor is bound, not only by contracts for necessaries, but also by his other contracts,
unless he disaffirms within a reasonable time after he attains his majority, and restores
to the other party all money and property received by him by virtue of the contract,
and remaining within his control at any time after his attaining his majority.
Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 48.18.020 provides:
(1) Any person eighteen years or older shall be considered of full legal age and may
contract for or with respect to insurance. Any person seventeen years or younger shall
be considered a minor for purposes of Title 48 RCW.
(2) A minor not less than fifteen years of age as [sic] at nearest birthday, may,
notwithstanding such minority, contract for life or disability insurance on his own
life or body, for his own benefit or for the benefit of his father, mother, spouse,
child, brother, sister, or grandparent, and may exercise all rights and power with
respect to or under the benefit accruing or money payable thereunder. The minor shall
not, by reason of minority, be entitled to rescind, avoid, or repudiate the contract,
or any exercise of a right or privilege thereunder, except that such minor, not otherwise
emancipated, shall not be bound by any unperformed agreement to pay, by promissory
note or otherwise any premium on any such insurance contract.
Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 30.22.070 provides:
A minor or incompetent may enter into a valid and enforceable contract of deposit
with the financial institution and any account in the name of the minor or incompetent
shall, in the absence of clear and convincing evidence of a different intention at
the time it is created, be held for the exclusive right and benefit of the minor or
incompetent free from the control of all other persons.
Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 33.20.040 provides that minors may become depositors or members
in a saving and loan association and "all contracts entered between a minor and an
association, with respect to his membership or his deposits therein, shall be valid
and enforceable, and the minor may not disaffirm, because of his minority, any such
membership or agreement in connection therewith."
Finally, Washington law requires that money distributed from estates to minors be
either invested in an account for the benefit of the minor (subject to withdrawal
only upon order of the probate court or the minor attaining age 18), or paid or delivered
to an appointed guardian, or a custodian under the Washington UTMA. Wash. Rev. Code
Ann. § 11.76.095.
3. Are there any specific requirements in Washington on how the property should/must
be titled to show the minor as titleholder?
Under the Washington UTMA, custodial property is held in the name of the custodian
followed in substance by the words: "as custodian for (name of minor) under the Washington
Uniform Transfers to Minors Act." Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 11.114.090.
There are no other special requirements on how the property must be titled to show
the minor as titleholder.
4. If Washington does not permit a minor to hold title to property, or does not permit
the property to be titled/registered in the minor's name, what is the preferred method(s)
of titling property to reflect or protect the minor's interest in the property and
satisfy SSA's regulatory requirements?
As noted above, where a minor's property is managed under a trust document, the trustee
holds legal title. We were unable to find any Washington statute or case suggesting
a preferred method of titling the property in this situation.
1/ A court may transfer court-approved payments or awards into a special needs trust
for the benefit of a minor, Idaho Code § 68-1403(1 and 4), or into an insured account
in a financial institution, Idaho Code § 68-1403(3)(a), or into a custodianship under
the Idaho UTMA, Idaho Code § 68-1403(3)(b).