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Infants

infant, minor, account, age, stock, bill, name and person

INFANTS. All persons below the age of twenty-one are, by English law, called infants or minors. The question as to whether a banker can with safety permit a minor to open an account and draw cheques thereon is one which has been much discussed and on which diverse opinions prevail. The gener ally accepted legal opinion appears now to be that a banker may, without risk, allow an infant to open an account and draw cheques upon it, but that the account must not be overdrawn, for money lent to an infant cannot be recovered, even if he gave security.

By the Infants' Relief Act, 1874, Section 2, " no action shall be brought whereby to charge any person upon any promise made after full age to pay any debt contracted during infancy or upon any ratification made after full age, of any promise or contract made during infancy whether there shall or shall not be any new consideration for such promise or ratification after full age." In savings banks, receipts are given by minors and accepted, but in those cases special provision is made under the Savings Bank Acts that the receipt of a person under the age of twenty-one years shall be a sufficient discharge.

The holder of an infant's cheque, which has been dishonoured, cannot sue the infant upon it ; and where a cheque has been cashed to a minor and is subsequently dis honoured, the money cannot be recovered by law from the minor.

Section 22, s.s. 2, of the Bills of Exchange Act, 1882, provides : " Where a bill is drawn or indorsed by an infant, minor, or corpora tion having no capacity or power to incur liability on a bill, the drawing or indorse ment entitles the holder to receive payment of the bill, and to enforce it against any other party thereto." The signature of an infant upon a bill does not in any way affect its negotiability. He may pass on a good title to others, and though he cannot be sued himself he may by his next friend sue other parties to the bill. Even if a minor accepts a bill in payment of necessaries, he cannot be sued upon it.

An infant cannot sue in his own name, except in a county court for wages due to him. In an action by an infant he must sue by his " next friend," and in an action against an infant a guardian is appointed.

But if a minor has made a false representa tion as to his age and thereby induced a banker or anyone to enter into a contract with him, he cannot afterwards obtain relief by proving that he is below the age of twenty-one.

The Statute of Limitations does not begin to run until he has reached the age of twenty one.

Shares should not be registered in the name of a minor as he may repudiate any liability thereon.

An infant may sign as a witness ; he may also act as an agent and sign cheques, and draw, accept, or indorse bills, and the lia bility rests with the person who gave him the authority to do so. He may sign cheques upon an overdrawn account if that power is included in the authority. There is nothing to prevent an infant being a partner in any business, but in any action against the firm the infant would be ex cluded. An infant cannot undertake the duties of an administrator or executor nor act as a proxy in bankruptcy proceedings. He cannot make a will, and in the event of his death letters of administration require to be taken out by his father or mother or nearest of kin.

An account is sometimes opened with a banker in the joint names of a parent or guardian and an infant ; such an account should be treated by the banker like an ordinary joint account as to authority for signing of cheques, etc., but he will, of course, bear in mind the non-liability of the minor for an overdraft, as before mentioned. 1 f the minor is a very young child, the better plan is fur the account to be opened in the parent's or guardian's name for the child, thus, " John Brown. In re Timothy Brown," in which case no mandate is required, and the adult has full control.

The form in which deposit receipts are sometimes issued, " John Brown for Joseph Brown (a minor) " is not a desirable one, and should be avoided.

A deposit receipt may be issued in the name of a minor. On withdrawal he is able to give a good discharge for the money.

Stock in Public Funds. By the National Debt Act, 187U, Section 19 :—" Where stock is standing in the name of an infant or per son of unsound mind, jointly with any person not under legal disability, a letter of attorney for the receipt of the dividends on the stock shall be sufficient authority in that behalf, if given under the hand and seal of the person not under disability, attested by two or more credible witnesses." By the National Debt (Stockholders Relief) Act, 1892, Section 3 :—" (a) Where an infant is the sole survivor in an account ; and (b) where an infant holds stock jointly with a person under legal disability ; and (c) where stock has by mistake been bought in or transferred into the sole name of an infant, the Bank may, at the request in writing of the parent, guardian, or next friend of the infant, receive the dividends and apply them to the purchase of like stock, and the stock so purchased shall be added to the original investment."