I have been told of a time, long, long ago, when it seems that all but the most complex agreements were done “on a handshake”. Back in those days, you could believe what somebody told you and you didn’t have to put the details in writing. A man’s (or a woman’s) word was his or her bond.
I don’t think those days really ever existed.
It has never been a good idea to leave the details of a business arrangement unwritten – that’s one thing that has kept lawyers in business and lawyers have been around for a long time. One of the other party doesn’t have to be a crook – perfectly honest people may have differing memories of the details of a contract. That’s why it always has been important to put your business deals in writing.
The writing doesn’t have to be long or in legalese language. It can be as simple as:
Bobby agrees to sell to Billy, and Billy to buy from Bobby, a 1965 Ford Mustang, serial number 1234567. The purchase price is $10,000, to be paid in cash. Billy buys the car “as is”.
Signed: Billy and Bobby
It’s very tempting to do business with old friends or relatives on a handshake basis. We all do it sometimes, but the better practice is to draw up a simple contract. The best reason is, if your old friend or relative should pass away the day after the deal is made, you don’t know who you’ll be dealing with in trying to get the contract fulfilled. It’s really a favor to everyone to have the deal put in writing.
You can write up a lot of contracts by yourself, but for things like leases or purchases involving a substantial amount of money, it’s worth it to spend $100 or so on a lawyer to draft the contract for you.