Essentially, any agreement between two or more parties to do (or not do) certain things may be considered a contract.
However, the courts only recognize contracts where you can prove: offer, acceptance, mutual agreement, legal purpose, consideration, and sound mind of both parties. Even an oral, or "handshake" agreements that meet these requirement would be considered an enforceable in court.
Reasons Why Written Contracts Are Superior
Though technically "handshake" agreements may be enforceable, if there is a dispute, a written agreement is clearly superior because:
1. Courts Will Recognize Some Contracts ONLY If They Are in Writing
This means that unless the agreements discussed below are in writing, courts will consider the contract to be void. In these situations,"handshake" agreements are not appropriate.
Though these differ from state to state, they are generally:
- Contracts for the sale or transfer of an interest in land
- A contract that cannot be performed within one year of the making
- A contract for the sale of goods valued at $500 or more
- A contract of an executor or administrator to answer for a decedent's debt
- A contract to guarantee the debt or duty of another, and
- A contract made in consideration of marriage
2. Written Contracts Make It Easier For Courts To Settle Disputes
As noted before, except for the contracts discussed above, your agreement does not have to be in writing to be enforceable. However, a written contract:
- Is your proof of what the parties agreed upon and prevents someone from changing his story later on;
- Highlights the important parts of your agreement.
A. Check The Following:
□ Is the contract in writing with numbered pages?
□ Do the parties have the authority to enter into the contract?
□ Are all the parties identified in the opening paragraph?
□ Does the contract specifies a beginning and ending date?
□ Are the contract terms written in plain English and the all the provisions clearly outlined?
□ Are all the payment amounts and dates correct?
□ Is the service or product provided described clearly?
□ Are the duties of each of the parties to the contract outlined clearly?
□ Are all handwritten changes initialed?
□ Are all the references to the parties and any exhibits or attachments consistent?
□ Did all the parties sign and date the contract?
□ Are the names and titles/positions of each signor listed below the signature line.
□ Make sure the signature matches the printed name.
□ If the one party is a corporation, is the signor an officer with the company?
If you are about to sign a lease,
B. Understand What The Provisions Mean
The language of a contract governs its interpretation in court. Though the content may be different. There is a certain structure that is common throughout most basic contracts - especially when it pertains to certain boilerplate (or standardized language) used.
Click on the pages below to find out what each section of the contract means.
As our discussion shows, a written contract may be the only protection you have if you want to settle a dispute in your favor.
However, you are an entrepreneur not a lawyer. You may not have the time to learn how to draft your own contracts. And, local attorneys may be outside of your price range.
This is where the internet legal providers can be helpful. After asking you a few questions, these providers can generate contracts that are specifically geared to your needs.
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The Legal Curator presents the legal information on this website as a service to members of the general public. While the information on this site is about legal issues, it is not intended as legal advice or as a substitute for the particularized advice of your own counsel. If you are seeking specific legal advice or assistance, you should retain an attorney.
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