By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a Freehold, NJ Real Estate Attorney
I was recently asked if there was a simple, ironclad way to transfer title to real estate in New Jersey to a 13 year old minor child. A “minor” means an individual who has not attained the age of 21. Many people assume that a grantee (the person to whom ownership is transferred) must be at least age 18 or 21 years of age in order to legally own real estate. What is the status of a deed transfer to a 13 year old and does that status change when he or she reaches age 18/21?
Surprisingly you don’t have to be an adult to receive title in real estate. However, nothing can be done by the minor with the title, e.g. sale, mortgage, etc. until after he or she becomes an adult or a guardian is appointed for him.
A person can make such a gift to a minor using the NJ Uniform Transfers to Minor Act. You transfer the real estate using N.J.S.A: 38A-1 et seq per N.J.S.A:46:38-19e –which states that an interest in real property which is recorded in the name of the transferor, (an adult representative other than the minor, or a trust company) can transfer title for a minor by adding the words “as custodian for (name of minor) under the New jersey Uniform Transfers to Minors Act.
So real estate can be transferred to a minor under the UTMA who will be entitled to whatever he or she wants to do with it in his or her own name outright upon attaining the age 21.
But remember while a minor can make a transfer effective at age 21 by using the UGMA statue, I question the wisdom of making a transfer to a person at such a young age. Once an adult he or she becomes subject to the claims of creditors or a divorcing spouse unless maintained as a separate asset or placed in trust.
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