A contract is an agreement between two or more persons that creates an
obligation to do or not do a particular thing. Once you graduate from high
school and go to work or college, you likely will face many situations in
which you are asked to enter into a contract. Some of the more common
contracts you may encounter include leases on apartments, credit cards, sales
contracts for goods and services, car loans, student loans, and insurance
Can I make a contract before turning 18?
Yes, but you will probably find that most people will refuse to enter into a
contract with someone under the age of 18 because courts generally will not
enforce contracts against minors. However, there are certain exceptions,
including some government and student loans and contracts for “necessaries”
(such as food, lodging, and clothing).
Must all contracts be in writing?
No, not all contracts have to be in writing. However, the law does require
that contracts for the sale of land and long-term leases be in writing.
What are some of the advantages of a written contract?
A written contract allows you to see clearly the terms of the agreement
between you and the other party. There is less chance of a misunderstanding or
disagreement when a well-written contract is prepared.
What are some of the disadvantages of written contracts?
Certain contracts, especially form contracts prepared by only one of the
parties, may contain language not easily understood and that may be unfair to
you. These contracts may contain clauses that, without the advice of an
attorney, put you at a real disadvantage if problems arise in the future. If
you do not understand any portion of a written contract, it is always best to
consult an attorney before signing.
What are some general rules to follow when asked to sign a contract?
The first and most important rule is READ THE CONTRACT! After you have read the contract, if there are items you do not understand or disagree with, do not sign it until you are completely satisfied with the answers and understand every clause or until you have consulted with your attorney. Never blindly accept the explanation or assurances of the other party about the meaning of any terms in the contract. Get any explanation or changes agreed to in writing and added to or attached to the contract. Once a written contract is signed, courts generally will not allow verbal understandings to be considered in the event of a dispute.Also, watch out for unduly harsh penalty clauses or any clause in which you agree to waive any rights that you otherwise may have under the contract or under existing law. Finally, as a practical matter, you should be sure that you can meet the obligations imposed by the contract, whether that be payment of money or providing goods or services.