Limited legal capacity: running your own business before you turn 18

If you are a minor, (under 18-years-old), in the Netherlands you are ‘legally incapable’ (handelingsombekwaan). You may only act legally with the permission of your parents or guardian. If you are 16- or 17-years-old, you can apply to the court for limited legal capacity. You are then considered an adult in certain situations. But what exactly do you have to do?

Registering your company with the Chamber of Commerce is easy if your parents or guardian are present. But opening a business account at the bank as a minor is not possible. Neither is signing contracts or arranging a payment system for your web store. This is when limited legal capacity (handlichting) is useful.

What is limited legal capacity?

If you have limited legal capacity, you are legally considered an adult. You apply to the court for specific powers. The judge then declares you an adult. This means that you can do the same things for your business as a 16- or 17-year-old that would usually only be allowed after you turn 18. Such as signing contracts and opening a bank account.

You apply for certain authorisations. So the ruling says exactly what you can do for your business. Such as signing purchasing contracts and opening a business bank account. Buying business premises, for example, is usually not allowed.

Submit a request via the court

To apply for limited legal capacity, you submit a written request (in Dutch) to the district court in your region.  Your parents or guardian must co-sign the request. Often you must appear in court. The judge wants to see for themself if you can handle the responsibility. You have to pay court fees, usually about €100. 

After the court approves your request, you will be given an official copy of your limited legal capacity. This is proof that you have legal capacity. 


Limited legal capacity is an official court decision that you must make public. By law, this must be published in 2 regional newspapers and the Staadscourant (Government Gazette). This is a Dutch government publication where rules that apply to everyone are published. You have to pay for this. Therefore, ask the court whether publication in the online Staadscourant  is sufficient. Publication in the online Staadscourant is free of charge. Usually, the judge will agree. 

The court publishes the ruling. This way, everyone can see what you can and cannot do for your business. 

Good to know

The whole process, from the application to the publication of the judgment, can take a few months.