Legal Insight. Business Instinct.

The Statute of Frauds: Get it in Writing

A man’s word is his bond. Or so the saying goes. However, the law requires that some contracts be made in writing, and signed by the party to be charged, so as to avoid fraud, confusion, and disagreement over the terms of the contract. An agreement covered by the Statute of Frauds that is not in writing is invalid.

The Statute of Frauds requires a written contract in the following instances:

1. The purchase and sale of real property, or an interest therein. An agreement to buy 40 acres from your neighbor is not enforceable unless it is in writing and signed by your neighbor.

2. A lease of real property for longer than one year. Do you have an agreement to lease farm ground for more than one year? If it is not in writing then your lease is not valid. (This does not affect a year-to-year lease that is renewed annually.)

3. A promise to answer for the debt of another. Any promise to pay or guaranty someone else’s debt must be in writing.

4. A promise made by a person or entity engaged in the business of lending money to lend money in the amount of $50,000 or more. Self-explanatory.

5. An agreement made upon consideration of marriage. “I will marry you if you give me your horse.” Better get that contract in writing.

6. An agreement that by its terms is not to be performed within a year from the making thereof. Your neighbor promise to sell you his 1967 Mustang in four years when you get out of the Army? Better get it in writing.

The Statute of Frauds prevents frauds and perjuries. The lesson to be learned is that when a man insists that his word is as good as his bond – get his bond in writing.

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