The Dangers of Unwritten Agreements
You’ve heard it before: “If it’s not in writing, it doesn’t exist.” While that is not technically true, we don’t recommend entering into an unwritten agreement or contract of any significance. If it is important to you or to your business, get it in writing. Unwritten agreements, or oral contracts, can be legally enforceable in Tennessee in certain cases, but they are extremely difficult to prove in court.
Contracts Required to be in Writing
According to a legal rule called the “statute of frauds,” there are some agreements that are required to be in writing in Tennessee, including:
- An agreement to pay someone else’s debt
- An agreement concerning the sale of real property or land
- A lease with a term longer than a year
- A contract that can’t be performed or concluded in a year
- A contract for the sale of goods for over $500.00
What Should a Contract Say?
Any contract should contain the essential terms of the agreement. The contract should clearly spell out what each party is going to do in plain language. Say what you mean, and mean what you say. If you don’t clearly spell out your intentions in a contract, then you run the risk of having a judge decide what your agreement means. You wouldn’t believe the number of cases in Tennessee where courts have had to interpret contract terms and agreements because of drafting failures on the front end. Do you really want a judge telling you what your contract says?
Be Smart: Hire an Attorney During Contract Negotiations
Contract law and litigation can be complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. One way to avoid disagreements, misunderstandings, and the high cost of contract litigation is to involve an experienced lawyer during contract negotiations. Many people believe that hiring a lawyer during contract negotiations will signal distrust of the other party, but that is not true in today’s business world. It is common, and usually expected, that attorneys will be involved. We are often successful in obtaining favorable contract language for our clients that they would have never known to request had they not involved an attorney. It is sometimes a matter of knowing what to ask for, and we can help you with that.
We are not only experienced in drafting and reviewing agreements and contracts, but we are trial attorneys. Call us today at 901-372-5003 if you need help with a contract or agreement.