PR 07215.053 Washington

A. PR 00-037 Purchase of Property by Representative Payees on Behalf of Minor Children — Revised

DATE: May 14, 1999


In Region X (Seattle), the States of Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington generally allow a minor to hold legal title to real and personal property.


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 provides:

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 b