What Age of Majority Means, Plus Charts for the U.S. and Canada
Age of Majority Definitions by US States and Canadian Provinces (with Charts)
Age of majority is the age at which a child legally becomes an adult. Once a person is above the age of majority, they have additional responsibilities and more consequences for their action. But how old do you have to no longer be a minor? Where this line is drawn varies from country to country and even from state to state.
If you want to check the age of majority in your state or province, scroll down to the charts at the bottom of the page.
But what does that term really mean? How old do you have to be to be above the age of majority?
The word "majority" means that the law considers adults to be responsible for the majority of their actions. Not all of them, of course. Some actions, like getting sick or dying, are out of anyone's control. But if you've reached the age of majority, you're old enough to be held legally responsible for most of your actions.
Legally, being above the age of majority also means you can do things like enter into contracts, bring a lawsuit against another party, and more. It doesn't affect things like the age at which you can vote, drink, or smoke.
You're probably already familiar with the opposite term, "minors", which is commonly used as another word for children. Legally, the term "minor" indicates that a person is still in the "age of minority" and is only legally responsible for the minority of their actions. Parents or legal guardians take the responsibility for the majority of their children's actions.
Why Age of Majority Is Important for Entering Giveaways
"To enter, you must be a resident of the United States or Canada above the age of majority."
Sweepstakes sponsors restrict giveaways to people above the age of majority because they want to ensure that only adults participate.
Why? One good reason is that minors cannot legally enter into contracts, so they cannot agree to be bound by the rules. The rules protect both the entrants and the sweepstakes' sponsors, so it's important that both sides can legally agree to be bound by them.
Another good reason for sweepstakes to allow only adults to enter is that many countries (including Canada and the United States) have special laws governing advertisements for children. For example, the United States has COPPA, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, which regulates how companies handle data belonging to minors. Many sweepstakes sponsors don't want to run afoul of these laws.
What's the Age of Majority in the United States?
In the United States, the age of majority is determined by the state, not federal, law. That means that each state can decide at which age children become adults.
18 is the most common age of majority among the U.S. states. Some states grant majority after a citizen passes high school, while others have chosen a later age. Here's the full list:
Age of Majority by U.S. State
|State||Age of Majority|
|Arkansas||18 or graduation from high school, whichever is later|
|District of Columbia||18|
|Nevada||18, or if still in high school at 18, 19 or graduation, whichever comes sooner|
|Ohio||18 or graduation from high school, whichever comes first|
|Tennessee||18 or graduation from high school, whichever is later|
|Utah||18 or graduation from high school, whichever is earlier|
|Wisconsin||18, or if still in high school at 18, 19 or graduation, whichever comes sooner|
When Is Someone a Legal Adult in Canada?
Many Canadian sweepstakes (or contests, as they're generally called in Canada) don't allow people who are under the age of majority to enter.
To ensure that no minors will enter, some contests choose to simply restrict entry so that only Canadians over the age of 19 are allowed to enter since that covers all of the provinces. Others will simply state that they prohibit entry from anyone under the age of majority, and leave it up to each entrant to know whether that applies to them or not.
To help, here's a chart showing the age of majority in each Canadian province:
Age of Majority in Canadian Provinces:
|Canadian Province||Age of Majority|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||19|
|Prince Edward Island||18|
Majority Isn't Always Defined by Age:
In special cases, factors other than age determine when a child becomes an adult. For example, if a judge grants emancipation to a minor, that person also receives majority and is considered responsible for their actions. Many regions also give majority to minors who marry or who join the armed forces.
This is why you might see some sweepstakes rules state that you can enter if you are 18 or older and above the age of majority. In those cases, someone under the age of 18 who is an emancipated minor would still not be able to enter.
On the other hand, some people who are above the legal age don't receive age of majority rights due to mental handicaps and other issues.
Merriam Webster, "Age of Majority Definition", accessed Sep 25, 2020.