I've been looking at options for minors in the USA regarding their finances and everywhere I look, I see 'people under 18, need a guardian, parent etc. to open a checking/saving/brokerage account' and so on.

I have a question: do minors have the possibility to own anything in the US (specifically the state of Wisconsin) solely in their name? No guardian, co-owner, nothing, just simple ownership. And if not, can they own a house/bank account/brokerage account/whatever with one of their parents, but in such a way that to do anything with those assets, both owners (here, the parent and the child) need to give consent?

  • It's totally normal for a minor to have a full, normal bank account that they can operate just as an adult. If you're going for a scheme where you want to "hide money" with a minor, it will never work in a million years - every tax authority in the world "got on to that one" like 50 to 100 years ago. Just totally forget it, if that's the scheme. – Fattie Nov 6 '16 at 13:08

Yes a minor can have a checking account, or a savings account. They can even get a debit card. The money in that bank account belongs to the minor. The account can be established as soon as the are assigned their social security number. If they are a newborn the account is generally set up as a joint account with a parent to facilitate transferring money into the account. For us the money was birthday gifts from relatives.

The IRS allows minors to receive small amounts of interest, or other unearned income, tax free. In 2015 that is up to $1,050, if they have no earned income. When bank rates were higher some parent's wanted to put all their saving under their child's name, of course in the eyes of the law the money belonged to the child and was only to be spent for items that benefited the child.

Credit cards are another matter because the CARD act in 2009 required lenders to only give credit to those under 21 who had proof of sufficient income, unless there was a co-signer.

You do have to be careful when talking about owning a house as minor. They generally can't sign a contract. You could gift the house to the minor, but if it was time to sell it the courts would insist on appointing a legal guardian to represent the interest of the child. That could add significant time to the transaction.

  • Do you mean, that a minor can have a checking account or savings account only in their name, and have full control over it? – 8nu0t5489nem9uc985um May 10 '15 at 7:43
  • @NeilL added info on bank account ownership – mhoran_psprep May 10 '15 at 11:43
  • 1
    +1 - Interest, dividends, 'unearned income'. Edited. You are welcome to remove, or re-edit. – JoeTaxpayer May 10 '15 at 12:52

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