Can Minors enter into contractual agreements?

In the UK, a legal presumption exists that entitles anyone to enter into a contract unless an exception applies. One of those exceptions is in the case of a minor. Since 1969 the age of contractual capacity for individuals has been set at 18 and reaching the age of 18 is known as attaining 'majority'. Minors are therefore those who have not attained the age of 18.

Minors are permitted to enter into contracts for limited purposes however, and the test as to whether or not they can, focuses on the nature of the transaction, and whether the minor is of an age such that they are capable of understanding it.

The general law states that contracts entered into by children that are for necessaries are binding on children, as are those for apprenticeship, employment, education and service where they are rightly said to be for the benefit of the child.

Contracts for necessaries are for such things as the supply of food, medicines, accommodation and clothing, but generally speaking conveniences and products and services for comfort or pleasure are excluded, as are commercial or 'trading' contracts. These latter contracts are therefore voidable at the option of the minor. Consequently, whether the minor may avoid a contract they have entered into depends on the nature of that contract.

Contracts where the minor may avoid the effect of the contract are for the acquisition of a legal or equitable interest in property of a permanent nature - so shares, land, marriage and partnerships would all be included here. Other contracts, however, require positive ratification in order to be enforceable, which includes contracts for debts and the sale of goods that are not for necessaries. The ratification must take the form of an acknowledgement that the debt is binding after attaining the age of 18.

On the other hand, restraints of trade may be unenforceable against a minor, even if they would be enforceable against an adult.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.

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