At present, Coogan Accounts (a.k.a Blocked Trust Accounts and Trust Accounts) are required by the State of California, New York, Louisiana and New Mexico. In most instances, you will have to supply proof of a trust account prior to receiving a work permit. 15% of the minor’s gross wages are required to be withheld by the employer and deposited into the Coogan account within 15 days of employment. The parent must supply the Coogan account number to the employer.
History of the Coogan Law:
The Coogan Law is named for famous child actor Jackie Coogan. Coogan was discovered in 1919 by Charlie Chaplin and soon after cast in the comedian’s famous film, The Kid. Jackie-mania was in full force during the 1920s, spawning a wave of merchandise dedicated to his image. It wasn’t until his 21st birthday after the death of his father and the dwindling of his film career that Jackie realized he was left with none of the earnings he had work so hard for as a child. Under California law at the time, the earnings of the minor belonged solely to the parent.
Coogan eventually sued his mother and former manager for his earnings. As a result, in 1939, the Coogan Law was put into effect, presumably to protect future young actors from finding themselves in the same terrible situation that Jackie Coogan was left in. Unfortunately, the 1939 incarnation of the Coogan Law was flawed, leaving open various loopholes and necessitating long term, court sanctioned contracts for validation.
The Current Coogan Law:
After many years of advocating for more protections for child actors, Screen Actors Guild Young Performers Committee, National Policy and Planning Department and other industry groups were successful in closing many of the loopholes that made the original Coogan Law ineffective. In January 1, 2000, changes in California law affirmed that earnings by minors in the entertainment industry are the property of the minor, not their parents. Since a minor cannot legally control their own money, California Law governs their earnings and creates a fiduciary relationship between the parent and the child. This change in California law also requires that 15% of all minors’ earnings must be set aside in a blocked trust account commonly known as a Coogan Account.