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Izzy Brignall


The Companies Act 2006 provides no statutory provision prohibiting children, or in law, ‘minors’ from owning shares, therefore they can be shareholders of a company, subject to any restrictions on ownership which may be set out in its Articles of Association. Some companies (usually family owned private companies) allow minors to own shares in their capital as it provides them with assets which may increase in value over time and so enable all members of the family to share in the success of the company’s business. Minors can acquire these shares by subscribing for them pursuant to the company’s memorandum or through a share transfer. If they hold a significant amount of shares, they may also need to be recorded in the company’s registers as a person of significant control.

However, many companies choose to prohibit minors from being shareholders in their Articles of Association. Public companies often provide that a minor may not hold shares, while banks or other providers require all shareholders to consent before a contract with a minor is entered into.

child shareholders

Why do companies prohibit minors from being shareholders?

Under English law, contracts made with minors are usually unenforceable, aside from the limited exceptions of ‘beneficial’ contracts e.g. education, or contracts for ‘necessities' e.g. food or medicine.  Therefore, contracts in relation to shares are unlikely to be legally binding on a minor. This can cause issues, as minors can void their ownership at any point before their 18th birthday or within a ‘reasonable time’ thereafter. This process is called repudiation and is effectively the minor rejecting ownership of the shares, as well as any obligations placed on them as a result of owning them.

The law surrounding this causes some uncertainty as what constitutes ‘reasonable time’ is not defined, so is dependent on the nature and circumstances of each case. However, if the shareholder acts in a way which demonstrates their consent to ownership of the shares after their 18th birthday, such as accepting dividends, their ability to repudiate will be lost, regardless of whether ‘reasonable time’ has passed.

There is an argument that in the event of a minor shareholder repudiating their share ownership, they should be required to refund any dividends or benefits received from the company as a result of being a shareholder back to the company. This argument is based on section 3 of the Minors' Contracts Act 1987, which states that the court may require a minor who repudiates a contract to transfer 'any property acquired under the contract, or any property representing it' to the other party.


Other risks of allocating shares to children

Aside from minors being able to repudiate at any given time, there are several other risks that could arise when allowing them to own shares in a company:

  • Liability of other directors - A director who knowingly allows shares to be allotted to a minor is liable to the company for any losses as a result.
  • Issues with control - Within the company itself, the minor is still a member with a level of control, so is therefore entitled to a say in company matters. Giving too many shares to minors can tip the balance of control in a business and may lead to them outvoting other shareholders. This can present issues as, dependent on their age, they may not have sufficient maturity or understanding to make educated decisions, limiting how well the company is run.
  • Difficulties with transfers/sales – A well advised buyer will be concerned with the prospect of acquiring shares from a minor for the reasons discussed above which in a worst-case scenario for the buyer, could invalidate the sale and purchase agreement and would prejudice the buyer’s ownership of the company. To overcome this, buyers may request that pre-completion, the minor transfers the legal title in their shares to an adult, albeit the beneficial ownership can remain with the minor pursuant to a trust arrangement (as discussed further below). If the shareholder is no longer a minor (but was a minor at the time of receiving the shares and are within a reasonable time-frame of their minority to repudiate) they can ratify their ownership of the shares, meaning they’ve given formal consent to owning them and therefore making any contracts binding on them.


Solutions for child shareholders

Due to these issues, it is generally inadvisable for companies to allow a minor to directly hold shares. A common solution is a bare trust arrangement whereby an adult will hold the shares on behalf of the child, resulting in the minor only having a beneficial interest. The beneficiary still has the absolute right to the capital and assets within the trust, as well as any income generated from these assets, however, the trustee will be registered as the legal holder of the shares.

In conclusion, providing legal ownership of shares to a minor can provide some benefits to smaller, family run companies. However, it is unlikely to be favourable to larger private or public companies and trust arrangements may be more appropriate.


Can we help?

Our teams provide tailored advice to individuals and businesses on a variety of legal matters. Our Corporate team in particular work with investors both in the UK and internationally to help manage and build their company portfolios. If you require legal assistance, or would like to discuss this article further, please contact our Corporate team today on [email protected].

Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.

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If you have any questions relating to this article or have any legal disputes you would like to discuss, please contact the Corporate team on

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