Many years ago (so I heard…) deals and resolutions were done on mutual promises and handshakes. Unfortunately, nowadays we are well past that dynamic and have seen far too many diversions from this norm. Some of these diversions are disingenuous and dishonest while others are downright criminal. With the COVID-19 many people will need to get extensions, forbearances, forgiveness, and other relief on their accounts, debts, and obligations. Given that we all still have to make deals and resolve issues in our daily lives, it pays to think about the following when you are tempted to settle for a handshake, oral promise, or the equivalent:
Can I afford to be without this money or property if something goes wrong?
What if the other party bails out or fails to deliver the money, services, or goods?
What if our agreement is not honored by the other party?
Will I be in a bad situation and how much do I stand to lose?
What recourse do I have if something goes wrong?
Which laws protect me and how do I enforce them?
Further, if your deal is in writing does it match your understanding of the deal you made? Read and re-read and make sure it does. If not, you may be stuck down the road….
Writing can include mail, letter, email, text, or fax–something is better than nothing. There are some agreements that do not need to be in writing to be legally enforceable but do you know which oral, non-written agreements would have such status? If any of these questions raise serious questions for you, perhaps you should consult a lawyer before entering into an oral agreement and relying solely on a promise or a good word.
Best wishes in handling your daily affairs and stay healthy and safe out there. Stay home when you can and check on family members, friends, and those in your midst who are particularly vulnerable.