When entering into an agreement with another party, memorializing the terms of the agreement in writing is always ideal. In some cases, it is legally required. But in the course of making business deals, many agreements are not put into writing. Often the parties simply discuss terms and settle for a handshake. Oral agreements are usually valid, but problems arise when there is a dispute between the parties regarding the terms of the agreement. With no written contract, it can be difficult to ascertain what the parties agreed to when one party breaches the agreement. In Georgia, oral contracts may be enforceable, but the circumstances of each case are important in making this determination.
Some Contracts Must Be in Writing
The Statute of Frauds in Georgia provides that some agreements are required to be in writing and will not be enforced otherwise. This includes: (i) an agreement by a third party to pay a debt owed by another person, (ii) a contract to sell or lease property, (iii) a contract that cannot be fully performed within one year, (iv) a promise to reinstate a debt that was barred by the statute of limitations, and (v) any promise to lend money.
Exceptions to the Statute of Frauds
An oral agreement in the following situations may be enforceable even if the type of contract would otherwise have been covered by the Statute of Frauds: (i) the contract has not been fully executed, (ii) one party has carried out the terms of the agreement and it was accepted by the counterparty in accordance with the contract, and (iii) the contract has been partly performed and it would be inequitable not to compel the counterparty to perform.
Enforceability of Contracts in Other Cases
Courts will assume that parties in a written contract understand and assent to the terms of the contract. The execution of the contract indicates that the parties had a meeting of the minds, which is an essential element of a contract. When a contract is verbal in nature, a party cannot necessarily substantiate that there has been a meeting of the minds. For this reason, it is always best to get an agreement in writing to avoid having to prove verbal terms in court. If you have a verbal agreement, the best advice is to have a witness present when the agreement is made, begin performance of the contract as soon as possible and retain supporting evidence to show that a contract was formed.
The experienced team of attorneys at the Law Offices of Mark Weinstein, P.C. can help you litigate your real estate claims. Contact Mark Weinstein and his colleagues at (770) 888-7707 or visit them at http://www.markweinsteinlaw.com to find out how they can advise you.