The writing requirement for contracts states that certain kinds of contracts must be in writing.  Contract writing requirements are usually contained in a specific set of contract laws called “statute of frauds” laws. 

Statute of frauds laws exist in order to help prevent contract fraud through the writing requirement.  The idea is that written contracts tend to be more reliable than oral agreements, since the parties can refer back to the document in the event of a disagreement. 

What Types of Contracts are Required to be in Writing? 

According to the statute of frauds laws for most states, the following types of contracts must be in writing and signed in order to be valid:

  • Contracts for the transfer or sale of land
  • Contracts for the sale of goods over $500
  • Contracts that cannot be fully completed within one year of signing (according to the contracts terms)
  • Contracts related to marriage
  • Contracts involving a promise to pay another person’s debt (“surety contracts”)
  • Contracts that will continue beyond the lifetime of a party performing the contract

Contracts that are subject to the writing requirement should: state the basic conditions and terms of the parties’ agreement, clearly identify the parties, and identify the subject matter of the agreement (such as the goods or services).

Who Can Write a Contract?

Generally speaking, only those persons who are of legal age and deemed mentally competent are allowed to create a contract.  On the other hand, most average persons are not familiar with contract writing requirements.  Even straight-forward arrangements might require a rather complex contract. 

Drafting a contract requires a great deal of foresight and sometimes requires knowledge of the law as well.  For this reason, it may be necessary to have a lawyer draft or review the contract for you.  Also, it’s a good idea to have a contract reduced to writing even if it is not required- that way, you have a record of the agreement for reference in the future. 

What Happens if the Parties don’t Follow Contract Writing Requirements?

If a contract is subject to the statute of frauds, the parties must create a written contract document.  If the parties do not follow contract writing requirements, it could have very negative affects for both parties.  For example, the contract might not be enforceable in court if a dispute arises over the agreement.

In some jurisdictions, it may be possible to enforce an oral contract that has not been written down in accordance with statute of frauds laws.  For example, if one party has begun performing the contract, or if one party relied on the promise to their detriment, they may be able to have the contract enforced.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Contract Writing?

A contracts lawyer can be of great assistance when it comes to contract writing requirements.  If you are unsure of the contract laws in your state, a lawyer can help clarify what is required according to the statute of frauds.  Also, a lawyer can help you draft the contract and review it to make sure it fulfills the different writing requirements.