Are all contracts legally binding? That’s a great question. The answer is yes, so long as you tick off all the little boxes in the elements that make up a contract. In other words, there are certain factors that make up a valid contract. If you stick around to the end, you will learn something about contracts — and writing — that might surprise you.
So aside from being of legal age to enter into a contract, there are four things that you have to satisfy in order to make up a valid contract: mutual consent, offer and acceptance, consideration (and no, it’s not like… caring about something), and legal purpose.
That first one, mutual consent. That’s sometimes called a “meeting of the minds.” In other words, you and the other person are all agreeing to the same thing. You’re all on the same page as to what you’re agreeing to.
Offer and Acceptance.
Two, offer and acceptance. Pretty straightforward, there is an offer on one hand and an acceptance of the offer on the other hand. You can see where you might poke holes in a situation where… was that offer really accepted? Was there even an offer?
Consideration is something of value that you are giving in exchange for whatever the other person is giving. So, typical scenario is: I agree to provide services, you agree to provide payment, we are each providing consideration. One is services, the other is payment. We’re each providing something in order to enter into this contract.
And then legal purpose: you can’t contract for something illegal. (Sorry.) If you’ve satisfied all of those things, yep, it’s a valid contract.
Why Having it “In Writing” Does and Doesn’t Matter When it Comes to Legally Binding Contracts
Notice! I did not say that it has to be in writing in order for it to be a valid contract. I was one of two A’s in my contract, law class in law school thank you very much, and there was a little something called the “Statute of Frauds.” I know that sounds very legal. But it basically says that certain types of contracts are only valid if they’re in writing. That’s stuff like real property, real estate. You have to have it in writing in order for that type of contract to be valid. But in general, a contract does not have to be in writing in order to be valid.
This is why I say you should always have your agreements in writing. Not in text messages, not in DMs, not in emails back and forth, because those things can make up a valid contract. Or they could provide holes that you can poke into the agreement that say was there really an offer? Let’s scroll back through these emails. Was there really acceptance? Let’s scroll back through these DMs. Avoid all that. Avoid all that just have it all in a document.
So, I hope this helps you better understand that yes, all contracts — so long as you tick off all the elements of a contract — are legally binding.