The law of verbal agreements

<p>People have traditionally used a handshake to signify the reaching of an agreement. Verbal agreements, with or without the symbolic handshake, are legally enforceable in most instances. State laws require that certain types of agreements must be in writing under what is referred to as the Statute of Frauds.</p>
<p>Elements of a Legally Enforceable Agreement</p>
<p>Whether in writing or verbal, a legally enforceable agreement must contain three elements:</p>
<ul>
<li>An offer</li>
<li>An Acceptance</li>
<li>Consideration</li>
</ul>
<p>When the three elements are present, they signify that the parties have achieved a meeting of the minds with each one obligated to do something. For example, a buyer’s acceptance of an offer to sell a car for $1,000 signifies a meeting of the minds completed by the giving of the keys and title to the vehicle in exchange for the money from the buyer.</p>
<p>The mutual exchange of something of value is what sets an agreement that courts will enforce apart from a gift that is not legally enforceable. A promise to give someone $1,000 without requiring the person receiving it to do anything in return is a gift that the giver can decide not to give.</p>
<p>Verbal Agreements in Court</p>
<p>The difficulty of proving the existence of a verbal agreement in court is one of the primary reasons attorneys recommend reducing them to writing. Memories can fade over time, so the terms of a verbal agreement might be subject protracted litigation as the parties argue over their conflicting interpretations of the contents. Although witnesses might prove helpful, rarely do the parties to a verbal agreement conduct their business in the presence of others.</p>
<p>One method of avoiding problems with verbal agreements is to confirm the terms in writing. A letter, memo or email to the other person to a verbal agreement might be sufficient proof of the terms to use as evidence in court.</p>
<p>Statute of Frauds</p>
<p>The Statute of Frauds requires that certain types of agreements must be in writing to be enforceable. Although the laws differ from state to state, the following agreements will not be enforced by the courts unless they are in writing:</p>
<ul>
<li>Agreements for the sale or transfer of an interest in real property</li>
<li>Agreements to answer for the debt of another person</li>
<li>Agreements that cannot, by their terms, be performed within one year</li>
</ul>
<p>Even if a verbal agreement is proven to exist, it cannot be enforced in court if the law requires that it be in writing.</p>

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