What is a Contract?
A Legally Enforceable Promise or Exchange of Promises
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What is a contract?
A contract is a legally enforceable promise or an exchange of promises.
To be enforceable, the contract must meet certain elements. There must be an offer, acceptance of that offer, and then an intended exchange of value between the parties. These elements demonstrate a Meeting of the Minds between the parties. That is, the parties have a common understanding of the material terms of the agreement.
A contract does not have to be a formal, written document. It can be a verbal agreement or it can arise through the conduct of the parties. Those who make a contract do not have to use the word contract or even recognize that they have made a legally enforceable promise.
Each state develops its own contract law. Contract law provides confidence and promotes productivity by making private agreements between individuals legally enforceable. Plainly stated, it helps make buyer and seller willing to do business together.
- Example: One individual offers to purchase a widget from another person for $1. The other person agrees. This is a contract, as there is an offer and acceptance of that offer, a planned exchange of value, and a meeting of the minds as to these primary terms of the agreement.
- Note: As you can see, a contract does not necessarily have to be formal or in writing. A simple conversation or even actions of two or more individuals can be a contact.
Next Article: Influential Sources of Contract Law Back to: CONTRACT LAW
Does it surprise you how easy it is to form a contact? Why or why not? Why do you think it is so easy to form an enforceable contract? Are there any negatives to this? How do you judge whether there is a meeting of the minds between the parties? How do you account for the subjective nature of one persons understanding?
Mark goes to an antiques auction. A nice painting comes up for auction and Mark love it. The auction provides extensive background on all of the items being offered. The auctioneer begins taking bids and Mark the winning bidder. Has a contract been formed in this situation?
- The auctioneer was putting out requests for offers. Mark bid and made an offer. As the highest bidder, the auctioneer accepted marks offer. We have the elements of a contract - meeting of the minds, offer, acceptance, and consideration.
- What is a Unilateral Contract vs a Bilateral Contract?
- What is an Express Contract vs an Implied Contract?
- What are the requirements to form a Contract (Offer, Acceptance, Consideration)?
- What is an Enforceable Contract vs. a Valid Contract?
- What is a Void Contract vs a Voidable Contract?
- Adhesion Contract
- What is Mental Capacity to contract?
- What is the requirement of a Lawful Purpose?
- What are common types of Voidable Contract?
- When does an offer to contact terminate?
- Counterparty Definition
- Mirror Image Rule?
- Rule for Sale of Goods
- Silence is Not Acceptance?
- Mailbox Rule
- Shrink-wrap Agreement Definition
- Click-Wrap Agreement Definition
- What is Consideration?
- What is Promissory Estoppel?
- When is a contract required to be in writing Statute of Frauds?
- What type of writing satisfies the statute of frauds?
- Exceptions to the Statute of Fraud
- Documents Under Seal
- Who Can Sign Contracts on Behalf of a Company?
- E-Sign Act
- Privity of Contract
- Who are third-party beneficiaries to a contract?
- What is assignment and delegation of a contract?
- What is Performance, Substantial Performance, and Breach of a contract?
- What is performance of a Divisible Contract?
- When is a party's duty of performance discharged?
- What is tender performance of a contract?
- What are Impossibility and Impracticability
- What is a Frustration of Purpose?
- Acceleration Clause (Contracts) Definition
- What is Efficient Breach?
- Organization of a Contract
- Contract Representations & Warranties
- Contract Covenants
- What rules does a court follow in interpreting a contract?
- What is the Parol Evidence Rule?
- What is a complete integration vs a partial integration?
- Exceptions to the Parol Evidence Rule
- Patent and Latent Ambiguity in a Contract
- Service Level Agreement Definition
- Offtake Agreement