A legal contract age by state varies depending on each state. A contract is one of the oldest laws around and is an agreement that's legally enforceable between at least two parties. The parties in the contract need to be mentally competent adults, which often means they can't be minors. However, this isn't always the case.

A contract outlines a set of considerations or agreements that will be enforceable in court if one of the parties violates them. However, minors don't have the legal capacity to sign a contract until they're considered adults, so the contract must be with a party who can sign the document legally. They must have the maturity or objective measure of ability to sign a form with legal intent and have the mental capacity to have an intent to commit an act.

When a child reaches a specific age, their capacity to sign the form with the correct intent matures. This means they can be held accountable for their actions at this point. A contract that's legally binding requires the following things:

  • Parties who are competent to enter into the contract
  • An offer
  • Acceptance of the offer
  • Some type of mutual obligation

Age of Majority

The age where most people are considered adults is 18 years old, which is also known as the age of majority. Some states let minors who don't live with their parents and only support themselves emancipate themselves. This means that even though they're a minor, they'll be treated like an adult legally. In the state of Alabama, 19 years old is considered the age of majority. The type of contract can affect what the legal contract age is.

For example, car rentals usually have the rule that the renter needs to be a minimum of 21 years old. If a minor purposely damages or injures another person or property, they can be held liable at the age of 14 or even younger depending on the courts. However, they might not be allowed to vote or drink until they're 18 or 21 years old.

Contract with Minors

It's often assumed that minors don't have enough capacity to fully understand what their contractual rights are, which means they're not considered competent to contract. Contracts that minors are involved in are often able to be voided. Some contractual obligations stay binding, even if one of the parties is a minor. A contract for necessities, which includes food, housing, or medical care, isn't voidable and the liable stays liable for their obligations.

While the normal contract age is 18 years old, there are several exceptions to this depending on what the circumstances are. To see if a party is considered competent to enter into a contract, legal advice should be sought first. Such legal advice should include a careful review of the facts, circumstances, and relevant law.

Who Lacks the Capacity to Contract?

Minors do not have the capacity to create a contract, so a minor who signs one can either void the contract or honor the deal. There are some exceptions to this, such as minors being able to void a contract for lack of capacity while they're underage. Most times, if someone turns 18 but hasn't made any action to void the contract, it can't be voided any longer. As an example, a snowboarder who is 17 years old, Sean, signs an agreement for sportswear that's a long-term endorsement.

He then endorses the company's goods and deposits the money he gets for the endorsements for a few years. When he turns 19 years old, he decides he wants to take a better endorsement deal that came up and void the contract. Sean states he lacked capacity when he was 17 years old and signed the deal. However, the court is unlikely to allow Sean to void the agreement at this point.

Someone who lacks mental capacity can have a guardian void or void a contract themselves. Most states define mental capacity as whether or not a party understood the effect and meanings of the words that made up the transaction and contract.

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