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Basics of Contracts

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Every year, millions of contracts are signed from coast to coast for everything from homes, cars and business dealings, to just name a few, but how many of us really understand what a contract is and what legal responsibilities are part of signing and being part of a contract. Let’s take a closer look at how the average contract works and what they mean for you and me.

A contract is a legally binding volume of agreements or promises that is enforceable by local, state or federal law. If a contract is broken, or breeched, there are legal remedies at hand to resolve the situation. If a contract is missing any of these qualities, it isn’t considered to be a traditional contract. A percentage of contracts are made with pen and paper, like when you buy a new car or when you buy a home. However, the overwhelming majority of contracts are oral, meaning they are spoken agreements between two people. If you buy a hamburger from your local fast food restaurant, you have an oral contract that you will pay this set amount for food that is of a certain quality and of a certain specification. If the food fails to meet that, you can get a refund of your money or new food. Most people don’t consider these types of arrangements contracts, but they are.

Most written contracts can be broken down into the same basic sections. The first section is almost always where the parties involved in the contract identify themselves and define who they are, where they live and what their roles are from here on in. From there, most contracts then define the situation (selling/buying a car, home or whatever other financial agreement is taking place). The final part of the contract is usually where the specifics are hammered out and any point by point details that set this particular contract apart from similar ones is detailed. Both parties sign and date at the end and the contract is complete.

Even though most of us enter into far more oral contracts on a daily basis than written ones, it is always a good idea to get any high dollar oral contract down on paper to ensure that everyone’s rights are protected and that no one tries to renege on the contract at a later date.

Contracts can be illegal if they purport an illegal activity or an illegal exchange of goods or services. Some contracts can be undone because of one illegal clause or section in an otherwise legal contract. Even a single type can render an otherwise expertly written contract null and void, so it is always a smart move to enlist the help of a lawyer or other contract expert if you need one drawn up.

There are a host of legal remedies available for those that are suffering from breech of contract, such as suing to receive damages and to have the contract enforced. Check with a lawyer to see what legal options you have if you feel that a party has backed out of a legally binding contract.

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