Does a contract have to be in writing to be enforceable?

Adam Keilen Real Estate Law

Short answer. It depends.

Statute of Frauds. State law varies; however, generally, pursuant to the Restatement (Second) of Contracts § 110, certain contracts, subject to a statute, are not enforced unless there is a written memorandum or an applicable exception. Examples of contracts that often must be in writing:

  • A contract for an executor to answer for a duty of a decedent;
  • A contract to answer for the duty of another (suretyship);
  • A contract made upon consideration of marriage;
  • A contract for the sale of an interest in land; and
  • A contract that is not to be performed within one year from the making thereof (the one year provision).

Most states include other classes subject to the writing requirement. For example, in Michigan, if you are buying or selling goods for a price above $1,000, the contract must be in writing to be enforceable. MCL § 440.2201.

In plain English. Oral contracts (oral agreements) are enforceable, but some contracts have to be in writing.

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