Fifteen facts for fifteen-year-olds

Thursday, August 23, 2012

As Turcan Connell turns 15 years old this year, we are very much the ambitious teenager, and just like any other youngster, we are living in exciting times with countless opportunities on the horizon. Alison Paul looks at how a teenager, parent or grandparent might plan for the future and what entitlements a child has at 15 and just beyond.

1. Instructing a Lawyer
At 12, a child is presumed to be sufficiently mature to instruct a lawyer in a civil (i.e. noncriminal) matter, provided they have a general understanding of what this means.
 
2. Writing a Will/Granting of Power of Attorney
From the age of 12 a child is old enough to make a Will (not possible in England until the age of 18). It is not uncommon for children to hold assets, either in their own name, for example, Premium Bonds, bank accounts and even properties, or under a trust arrangement. Under the laws of intestacy, if an individual dies survived by their parents and siblings, one half of the estate is inherited by the parents and the other half by surviving siblings. A valid Will can prevent the potential return of capital up the generations.
 
At 16, a child can grant a Power of Attorney. This allows the person appointed as Attorney to do anything in respect of the granter’s financial affairs that he or she would be able to do themselves. If the child is taking a gap year, putting a Power of Attorney in place in advance could save considerable time and hassle if important documents need to be signed, or accounts/assets dealt with while they are abroad.
 
3. Nominee Arrangements/Bare Trusts
Many bank accounts, share certificates and even properties, are registered/owned by a parent or other relative “for Child X”. Sometimes, in fact often, Child X is quite unaware of his or her relative wealth, while others are made very well aware of the position and indeed these often modest assets can be a first test of financial responsibility. At 16, a child can demand that these assets are made over to them, if they are not encased in a full trust structure. In England, 18 is the magic age for making such a demand.
 
4. Income Tax
If a child is unmarried and under the age of 18, investment income, if any, is normally counted as the parents’ income and will need to be included on their parents’ tax returns.
 
5. ISAs
An adult ISA can be opened from the age of 16, and where there is a Junior ISA in place already, the child can now manage the account; although money cannot be taken out until they are 18.
 
6. Contracts
Whilst under the age of 16, a child can enter a contract of a kind commonly entered into by children e.g. buying The Beano, a cinema ticket, etc., so long as the terms are reasonable. In all other cases the transaction is void; something of note for both parties.
 
While the ‘child’ is under the age of 21, an application can be made to Court to set aside a transaction entered into between the ages of 16 and 18 which is regarded as “prejudicial” - broadly speaking, something a prudent adult would not have done.
 
7. Marriage/Civil Partnership
A marriage or civil partnership can be entered into at 16 in Scotland, without parental consent (in England consent is required between the ages of 16 and 18). It is never too early to consider entering a prenuptial contract to protect assets gifted by parents or other third parties ahead of such a relationship, or even to consider a pre-cohabitation agreement, should a child decide to leave home and live with their partner.
 
8. Child Support
At 12, a child can apply to the Child Support Agency for maintenance from an absent parent.
 
9. Change of Name
At 16, a child can change their name without parental consent.
 
10. Leaving Home
At 16, a child can leave home without a parent or guardian’s consent. A cohabitation agreement could be a useful safeguard if the child owns valuable assets, to guard against claims by someone with whom they may be co-habiting.
 
11. Consents/Medical Treatments
At 12, a child can register as an organ donor without parental consent. While under 16, a child can consent to any medical, surgical or dental treatment, provided the relevant practitioner thinks they understand the possible consequences of the proposed procedure/advice.
 
12. Pets
At 16, a child can buy a pet without parental consent.
 
13. Planes and Automobiles
At 16 a child can hold a licence to drive a moped and pilot a glider. At 17 they can hold a licence to drive a car, small motorcycle or tractor and even a private pilot’s licence for an aeroplane.
 
14. Armed Forces
At 15 years and 9 months a child can apply to join the armed forces (Army, Navy and RAF) with parental consent.

15. Voting
The Scottish Government proposes that for the Scottish Referendum on Independence, the voting age should be reduced to 16 (which would reportedly add around 3% to the electorate). Voting in UK elections is regulated by Westminster and the voting age is 18.

 
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