How old do you have to be to form a contract?

How Old Do You Have to Be to Sign a Contract in Illinois? Can Minors Sign Legal Documents

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Video by Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Article written by Illinois Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Updated on
September 3, 2019

In this article, we will answer the question, “how old do you need to be to form a contract?”  We will explain what happens if minors enter into a contract, situations in which minors are permitted to enter into contracts, and situations in which the legal age to enter a contract is older than the age of majority.

In almost all cases, an individual must be the age of majority, 18 years old, to form and agree to an enforceable contract. Minors, those under the age of 18, have no capacity to contract. The type of contract can also affect the legal contract age. A prime example of this is car rentals, which typically require a renter to be at least 21 and, in some states, 25 years old.

Under general law, minors are unable to sign a legally enforceable contract unless it’s for essential items, including medicine, food and medical services. Contracts involving minors are only legally binding if the parent or guardian consented to the contract. Therefore, if the parent or guardian did not consent to the contract, they can contact the business or other party and have the contract destroyed.

There is a distinction between a contract that is “void” and one that is “voidable.”  A contract with a minor is not automatically “void.”  Rather, contracts with minors in Illinois are “voidable.”  This means that the minor can enforce the benefits he or she is supposed to receive under the contract, but if the other party seeks to enforce the contract, the minor has the option to declare the contract void unless the contract was for necessary items as discussed above.  If the minor chooses to void the contract, he or she may still have to pay restitution for any benefits that he or she received under the contract to the detriment of the other party.

An exception to this age limit is the case of emancipation. If a minor is under the legal age of majority, but a court has granted him or her adult status, that individual may enter contracts as a legal adult.

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