Q: Can banks contract with minors?

A: Yes, depending on policies and procedures.

WBA continues to receive questions regarding the ability of minors to enter into a contract. No rule or regulation prohibits a bank from contracting with a minor. However, a minor can escape liability under the contract. Meaning, a minor could avoid liability from a bank seeking to hold a minor accountable for terms under the contract.

The ability of a minor to escape, or void, liability under a contract is often referred to as the doctrine of incapacity. This is a common law term, meaning, generally, a concept under the law that is derived from judicial precedent rather than statute. As such, there is no specific rule governing contracting with a minor. It also means that there is no specific point at which a minor is deemed "competent." If a minor attempts to escape liability under contract, it would be up to the bank to attempt to enforce the contract against the minor, and up to a court to decide.

It is important to understand the theory behind the doctrine of incapacity. Generally speaking, the theory is that a minor has not developed enough to understand the significance of contracting and thus may potentially escape liability. Because it is not readily defined, a court could find that someone who has attained the age of 18, or older, still hasn't matured enough to understand that significance and might be permitted to void the contract.

For the above reasons, financial institutions should consult with their policies and procedures regarding contracting with minors.