Are ‘verbal’ Agreements Binding?
You probably mean ‘oral’ (spoken) agreements as opposed to written agreements – ‘verbal’ means ‘words’. Sorry to be picky!
The simple answer is – yes, in most cases, oral agreements are binding. That is, save for certain contracts, that must be in writing. Examples – a will; a credit agreement; an antenuptial contract; sale of land… There are a few more. Very few.
The big problem with a spoken agreement is that it is so inaccurate. Generally, there is no record so you need to rely on individual impressions of what was meant. Most often, a spoken agreement will not go into the detail that a written agreement will go into. And the greater the detail, the more room there is for debate as to what was said and what was meant, later.
But, I am often asked, what do we do – so many things are discussed over the phone. Somebody will follow a discussion with the words, “Okay, it’s a deal!” Both parties to the ‘deal’ may be keen to confirm the arrangement but there could already be key differences in what they think the agreement is or was. So, what is to be done? How can we avoid this problem? Fairly easily, with the following tips –
1. Keep notes. Whenever you have a business telephone discussion, keep a pen and paper handy. In fact, it pays to write out the key areas of concern before the discussion so that you leave nothing out. Then, you make notes during the discussion, ticking off the separate points, as you go and adding the new issues.
2. When done with the conversation, go through each point again, as crisply as you can – this is easy if you have them all written down.
3. Always confirm an ‘oral’ agreement in writing, as soon after the conversation, as possible. Send it to the other person, with a short covering message, asking him to confirm as soon as he or she receives your mail. This way, you convert it into a written agreement!
Roger Knowles Attorney
18 June 2018
Family Law Specialist lawyers and mediators; Divorce; Parents & Children; Grandparents; Cohabitation; Curators; Maintenance; International Divorce; Domestic Violence and more.