Updated September 7,2021: 

Will a handwritten agreement hold up in court is an important question when entering into agreements for business purposes. The basic answer to that question is that a written agreement is valid and does not need to be notarized to be enforceable.

Things to Consider for a Handwritten Agreement

Even though a handwritten agreement is enforceable, there are some things to consider to make sure that it will hold up in court. When using a handwritten agreement, keep the following in mind:

  • It can be printed or handwritten.
  • A signed agreement may hold up in court but it needs to be signed by the people making the agreement or representatives authorized to make the agreement on a company's behalf. Just like oral agreements, handwritten agreements may or may not be enforceable depending on the type of agreement and the particulars included in it.
  • If using a notary, make sure to use a third party and not someone who is a family member or close friend of either party.
  • In California, handwritten agreements do not need to be notarized if both signers reside in the state.
  • Using a templated agreement instead of one tailored to the specifics of the agreement may or may not hurt depending on the circumstances surrounding it.

What Are Legally Binding Contracts?

A legally binding contract is used for business agreements. When envisioning business contracts, you often expect volumes of legal lingo with seals when, in truth, a handwritten contract can have the same binding effect.

Are Handwritten Agreements Legally Binding for Both Parties?

The simple answer is that it depends on the contract law in the area or state and the people or parties involved as terms often vary. For example, in terms of real estate, a handwritten contract (e.g. buying a house) is perfectly legally binding as long as both parties provide a signature. If someone or something is trying to nullify the contract, clients would benefit from hiring a contract review lawyer on UpCounsel for their party or company to provide information on your rights.

It is highly advisable for people or businesses to seek advice and services from lawyers from a nearby practice area to help decide whether a handwritten contract is legally binding. This would eliminate questions for your party as the attorneys will search and review the article before Party A and Party B come to acceptance on their new contract.

Statute of Frauds

The Statute of Frauds means that specific promises, such as exchanging property, or performing certain tasks are required to be in writing for them to be considered enforceable. This means that if certain exchanges are promised, an oral contract will not be enforceable in a court of law.

What Kinds of Contracts Should Be in Writing?

While the requirements for written contracts can vary from state to state, most states require written contracts for the following agreements.

  • Agreements that extend for longer than a year
  • Leases that last for longer than a year
  • Sales or transfers of real property
  • Payment arrangements for another person's debt
  • Agreements that can continue past the death of a promisor
  • Contracts or agreements for goods that exceed a specified amount

Even though wills are considered more complicated contracts, they can still be handwritten to be considered legally enforceable. Handwritten agreements are also often used for more simple contracts such as IOUs and promises of a raise. It is important to note that even if a written requirement is required under the Statute of Frauds, a handwritten agreement will still work to make the document legally binding. If you are unsure about the statute or whether your handwritten agreement was binding, you should consult with an attorney.

Handwritten Agreements and Small Businesses

Even though most small business owners utilize printed contracts when dealing with employees, sales, vendors, and clients, they still sometimes use handwritten agreements. It typically comes down to the practicality of writing a contract or multiple contracts out by hand, which is often why printed contracts take precedence.

Does a Signed Agreement Hold Up in Court?

Yes, it needs to be signed by the people making the agreement or representatives authorized to make the agreement on a company's behalf. You are authorized to write any document that can be recognized as valid and enforceable in a court of law as long as it follows any statutes and is valid and legal. Even though these documents can be used as evidence in court, they will not always result in a ruling your way. All contracts must follow legal requirements and certain guidelines to be considered enforceable.

The reason why it is often recommended to have lawyer's draft agreements is that they know the legal requirements and statutes that the court is looking for the agreement to be valid.

Handwritten documents in court are typically referred for statements such as you would draft in defense of minor offenses like parking or speeding tickets. Since these statements are often simple first-person accounts and explanations of what happened, they are expected to be something more likely to be handwritten.

What Is the Worst Case Scenario?

The worst case scenario is that your handwritten statement or agreement is not considered by the court. To avoid this and make sure your document can hold up in court, you should have a lawyer make sure:

  • It is admissible as evidence.
  • It is formatted properly.
  • It excludes any hearsay.

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