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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.

Persons over 18 under legal guardianship

Persons over 18 may also be in a state of minority. This is only the case if one is deprived of one's legal capacity, and it means that one:

  • is deprived of control of one's assets and the right to enter into binding agreements
  • is deprived of the right to vote
  • is under guardianship

The aim of this is especially to protect vulnerable and helpless individuals, e.g. people suffering from dementia and mentally retarded individuals, against their own unwise actions and against exploitation.

Deprivation of legal capacity

Legislation no longer uses the concept of deprivation of legal capacity but the concept of guardianship. 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 (see Limited guardianship below).

Reason for guardianship

Persons may be put under guardianship for different reasons. This may for instance be mental disease, mental deficiency or another mental condition that makes the person unable to take care of personal and economic affairs.

Physical disease or impairment may also make a person unable to take care of personal and/or economic affairs. Individuals are not automatically put under guardianship but must himself or herself express a wish for the appointment of a guardian.

Guardianship proceedings

The state administration decides whether an individual should be placed under guardianship. However, whether an individual should be deprived of legal capacity is decided by the local court. Proceedings may be initiated by the individual who wants to be placed under guardianship or this individual's relatives or the chief of police. The municipality may also initiate guardianship proceedings.

Deprivation of the right to vote

Individuals who have been deprived of legal capacity and thus are in a state of minority do not have the right to vote and therefore may not vote in referendums and elections. But individuals who are placed under other types of guardianship are not deprived of the right to vote.

Adults under guardianship


Adults may be put under guardianship, if there is a need for this. 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. An individual may also be so impaired because of disease that he or she is not suited to take care of his or her economic affairs. In such a case the individual must himself or herself express a wish for a guardian to be appointed. There must always be a concrete need for a guardian.

Limited guardianship

Guardianship may be limited so that it only covers certain economic or personal matters, and therefore an individual under guardianship is not automatically placed in a state of minority when a guardian is appointed (as used to be the case). An individual is only placed in a state of minority when this individual is deprived of his or her legal capacity.


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.

Voting rights

Individuals who have been deprived of legal capacity and thus are in a state of minority have no right to vote in referendums and elections. But individuals who are placed under other types of guardianship are not deprived of voting rights.

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.

The State Administration may change or end guardianship on its own initiative.


A guardian is a person who acts on behalf of a minor in connection with legal or personal matters and matters concerning the minor's assets. 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. One may not choose one's own guardian, but one's wishes are taken into account.

Appointed guardian

Often the guardian is a close relation. Being a guardian is not a civic duty (i.e. one does not have to be a guardian). If no one in one's family can or will be guardian, a guardian may be appointed; either one from the regional state administration's list of guardians or another professional guardian.

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. The state administration must for instance approve the purchase of large gifts or the acquisition or the sale of real estate.

The guardian's fee

Normally the guardian is not paid for his or her work. Such a guardian may, however, be reimbursed for any expenses. 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. In that case the authorities will pay.


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Senest opdateret 1. jul 2013
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