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What is a Contract?

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Three Elements

Most small businesses don’t realize this, but you really only need three things to create a legally binding contract. And by legally binding, we mean a contract that you can enforce in court if everything falls apart.

To create a valid contract, here’s what you need:

  • an offer from one party;
  • acceptance from another party; and
  • something of value from each party (for example, payment or performance).

You might note that a “writing” isn’t one of the requirements. That’s right. For most (but not all) contracts, you don’t have to reduce the agreement to a writing. An oral contract is absolutely enforceable.

When a “Writing” is Better

Although most oral contracts are enforceable, you should use written contracts whenever possible.

The issue with oral contracts is that they usually don’t include all the important stuff you should put in your contract and if a dispute arises, it is extremely hard to prove what the terms are. That’s why it’s usually best to put your contract into a physical or digital writing.

You can use physical paper or just create a digital contract using a contract platform like Rally. Create your first contract for free »

When is a “Writing” Required

In a small number of situations, you must put your contract in writing. This is usually for things like debts, marriage, land, etc. Research your state’s Statute of Frauds to learn more.

Get access to free contract templates for small and mid-sized businesses. Create your account »

Related Guides

There’s so much more to learn! Here are a few related guides you should read:

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