The age of majority
The age of majority is 18. Reaching majority means that an individual may freely dispose of his or her assets and enter into legal transactions as long as this is done within the law.
Minors under 18
Persons under 18 who are not married are minors. They may not freely dispose of their assets or enter into agreements whereby they surrender an asset or whereby they incur, transfer or forgive debt. And a minor may not freely enter into a contract of employment.
Although a person is a minor, he or she may dispose of money earned after having reached the age of 15. This money may be earnings or donations or inheritance.
In the case of children and young people under 18 the person who has custody automatically has the role of guardian unless this person is under guardianship. In the case of joint custody both parents are guardians.
Adults under guardianship
Adults may be put under guardianship, if there is a need for this. The State Administration decides whether an individual should be placed under guardianship. The reason may for instance be mental disease, severe dementia, mental retardation or other types of impairment that makes the individual unable to look after his or her personal and/or economic affairs. There must always be a concrete need for a guardian. Guardianship may be limited so that it only covers certain economic or personal matters.
Being placed under guardianship does not necessarily mean deprivation of legal capacity in so far as guardianship only covers the areas needed in a specific case. An individual is only placed in a state of minority when this individual is deprived of his or her legal capacity. Whether an individual should be deprived of legal capacity is decided by the local court.
Co-guardianship means that the individual who is under guardianship must take decisions together with another person, the co-guardian. A co-guardian may be appointed if because of lack of experience, impaired health or similar problems an individual needs assistance to administrate his or her assets or take care of economic affairs. One must ask for a co-guardian oneself, and nobody can be forced into co-guardianship.
Request for guardianship
An individual may personally request guardianship or may request changes to or ending of guardianship. Individuals who may make a request for somebody to be placed under guardianship are:
- the relevant individual himself or herself
- the relevant individual's spouse, children, parents, siblings or other close relations
- the guardian or a special guardian (to be appointed for instance if the guardian is disqualified)
- the municipal council or the chief of police.
One may not choose one's own guardian, but one's wishes are taken into account. Often the guardian is a close relation. If no one in one's family can or will be guardian, a guardian may be appointed from the State Administration's list of guardians.
The guardian's responsibility
Guardians are supervised by the State Administration. The State Administration must approve the guardian's handling of the minor's assets. Furthermore, the State Administration must approve the acquisition or the sale of real estate.
The guardian's fee
A professional guardian can to a certain extent get a fee if this is considered reasonable. The person under guardianship must pay the fee unless this person’s earnings or assets are inconsiderable.