Can You Be Too Young or Too Old to Enter into an Enforceable Agreement?
In earlier articles, we documented the requirements of a valid and enforceable contract, including the condition that the parties must have legal capacity. We further explained that the age of a party to a contract may affect whether or not there is legal capacity. Let’s take a closer look at what that means.
How Does Age Generally Affect the Ability to Enter into a Contract?
As a general rule, a person may be too young to make a binding legal agreement, but there are no laws that deem a person too old. A older person who suffers from dementia or memory-related conditions may still lack the legal capacity to enter into a contract, but it won’t be because of their age—it will be because of a demonstrated lack of mental capacity or understanding.
What Is the Law Governing the Enforceability of Contracts by Minors?
In all states, a minor lacks the legal capacity to enter into a binding and enforceable contract. In all but three states, that applies to persons under the age of 18. In Alabama and Nebraska, however, a person must be at least 19 years of age to have legal capacity, and in Mississippi, a person is a minor until the age of 21.
That doesn’t mean, however, that a minor cannot enter into an agreement, and it doesn’t allow the other party to such a contract to automatically void the agreement. Instead, the minor has the right to “disaffirm” the contract, rendering it unenforceable. As a general rule, the minor may disaffirm the agreement expressly (verbally or in writing) or impliedly through his or her actions. In most states, the minor may only disaffirm the agreement until reaching the age of majority, but some states allow disaffirmance for a reasonable period of time after a minor becomes a legal adult. Furthermore, contracts for necessities, such as food, shelter and clothing, typically cannot be set aside.
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