Do all contracts have to be in writing? Typically, unless it is required by law, contracts do not have to be in writing to be legally acceptable.

Key Elements of a Contract

There are four main elements to a contract:

  1. Offer
  2. Acceptance
  3. Consideration
  4. Meeting of the minds

An offer is a promise of one party to another to complete or avoid a future act.

Acceptance consists of the offeree providing written, oral, or actionable acceptance of the offer. Acceptance can only be established if it is accepting the full offer and its terms.

Consideration is defined as pledging an asset or assets in exchange for the requirements given in an offer.

Meeting of the minds is noted when both parties to the contract acknowledge and comply to the requirements listed within it.

Furthermore, a contract can appear in a variety of ways:

  • A single written form
  • A series of forms
  • Handwritten
  • Conversation
  • Email
  • Website

Contract Writing Requirements

Although not all contracts are required to be in writing, there are some that must provide a written document.

Typically, the statute of frauds law provides a list of contract laws pertaining to writing requirements. These laws were established for the purpose of protecting parties from contract fraud using writing requirements.

Essentially, written contracts provide physical evidence, they are more reliable than oral or performance contracts; therefore, even if a contract is not required to be in writing, it is wise to do so. This makes it so that there is physical proof of the arrangement.

Contracts in Writing

The statute of frauds law requires that the following contracts are only valid if they are written and signed:

  • Sale and transfer contracts for land interest
  • Long-term contracts lasting more than one year
  • Contracts for product sales worth $500 or more
  • Contracts requiring repayment of debt by an executor or administrator of a will
  • Contracts promising a party's debt or responsibility to another party
  • Marital contracts such as a prenuptial agreement

When a contract is held under the writing requirements it should include the following:

  • List of the conditions and terms of the contract
  • Names of the parties involved
  • Declare the focus of the agreement, such as the type of good or service being offered

By providing a written contract, both parties should be able to prevent future arguments over the purpose and terms of the contract.

It is strongly recommended that an attorney be hired when establishing a contract. By doing so, both parties improve their chances of preventing any common mistakes made when writing a contract.

For businesses that use contracts regularly, it is recommended that they look over them every-so-often to ensure that the current law is still applicable and that no new problems have appeared.

Writer of a Contract

A writer of a contract is usually required to be mentally stable and of legal age; however, most people do not know how to properly form a contract. Sometimes even a contract regarding a simple agreement can be quite complicated.

It is often suggested that a lawyer write, or at least review, a contract because legal knowledge is typically needed when forming a contract.

Failing to Abide by Contract Writing Requirements

As mentioned previously, any contract that is held under the statute of frauds must be written.

Failing to abide by the writing requirements listed could result in hardship on both groups involved. For instance, if a contract is taken to court and the parties did not abide by the writing requirements, the court may not view the contract as legally enforceable.

However, some states consider oral contracts enforceable, even if it has not followed the writing requirements. For example, if a contract has already been started or if one of the individuals or groups involved could be harmed without the contract, it might be considered enforceable.

Lawyers and Contract Writing

A lawyer can be a great asset regarding the formation of a contract for the following reasons:

  • He or she can provide clarity concerning the requirements of the statute of frauds.
  • He or she can form a draft and provide a review of the final contract to ensure it will be enforceable by law.

If you need help with writing contracts, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accept only the top 5 percent of lawyers to it site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Stripe, and Twilio.