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Can a Handwritten Agreement Hold Up in Court?

Can a Handwritten Agreement Hold Up in Court?

Is a handwritten agreement a legally binding agreement? Turns out, what is on the inside is what truely counts.

7th October 2021
Reading Time: 5 minutes

When people think of an agreement or contract, they usually visualise a formally typed out agreement or contract, not a handwritten one. Is there really a difference in legally standing between handwritten and typed agreements? Will a handwritten agreement hold up in court when its contents are disputed?

In this legal guide, we cover what makes an agreement into a legally binding contract. We also answer the age-old question as to whether or not a handwritten agreement has the same legal force as a typed agreement.

Read on to find out more.

Can a handwritten agreement actually hold up in court?

The general answer to this question is – it depends.

You see, the way the agreement is presented, handwritten or typed, is not as important as what is in the agreement itself.

So yes, even though handwritten agreements can be legally binding, it is the substance or the contents of the handwritten agreement that is the most important aspect to consider. Their substance or contents must show the elements of a legally binding contract or agreement in order to hold up in court.

This means that it truly depends on the words of the agreement, regardless of whether it is in a typed format or handwritten format. So, it’s important that we discover what makes an agreement legally binding or able to hold up in court. Read on below for more.

What do you need to create a legally binding agreement?

Any agreement that is legally binding will hold up in court. As stated above, even a handwritten agreement will hold up in court if it has the correct elements. These elements, analysed below, will create a legally binding agreement.

There must be an offer and acceptance of that offer

Offer and acceptance are the first elements the courts look to when determining whether an agreement will hold up in court. So, was there an offer and was that offer accepted?

The ‘offer‘ is the clear communication by one party to promise to do something, or not do something, in exchange for another party making some promise to do something in return.

The ‘acceptance‘ is quite simply the acceptance of the first parties offer.

Consideration must be present

It is a necessity for consideration to be present. Therefore, without consideration, an agreement will not be legally binding.

Consideration‘ refers to the value of the agreement. If one party promises to do something, the other party must give consideration in return.

For instance, if one party offers to do work, build something, or sell an item to another party, the consideration in the agreement is the value or monetary value of the offer. In other words, consideration is usually fulfilled if money is given for some work.

Intention to be a binding agreement must be present

As long as both parties had the intention to the bound by the terms of the agreement or contract, the courts will usually decide that they had an intention to create a binding agreement. This is determined by the words of the agreement itself, not the subjective intention of the parties.

Both parties must have legal capacity

If a party does not have the legal capacity to enter an agreement, the agreement cannot be legally binding. Therefore, both parties must have the correct legal capacity. Individuals who do not have the correct legal capacity include minors, individuals suffering from some mental impairment and individuals with diminished capacity.

The terms of the agreement must be certain

This is another important element or feature needed to create a legally binding agreement. The agreement must be certain and cannot be vague. In certain circumstances, contracts that have vague terms can be set aside. This means that every term in an agreement must be express and clear. For instance, terms surrounding time limits (if applicable to your agreement) must state the exact start date and time and end date and time of the agreement, in order to be certain.

Why are typed agreements prefered over handwritten agreements?

Although it doesn’t really make a difference to its legal standing, there are many reasons why people prefer a typed out agreement over a handwritten agreement.

Why? Practicality and professionalism.

Handwritten agreements can be impractical

When you make a spelling mistake in a handwritten agreement, it can be difficult and look messy to fix that spelling mistake. So, take extra care if you choose to handwrite your agreement.

It can also be very time consuming to sit down and manually write out each and every duty and clause. An agreement that could take you a few hours to create, may take you days to handwrite. Furthermore, both parties can easily sign their agreements using an eSignature, saving further time and money.

Handwritten agreements can look unprofessional

Handwritten contracts can, at times, look unprofessional and unorganised. This becomes especially true if the handwritten agreement has spelling mistakes crossed out or entire sentences crossed out. Let’s face it when you’re entering a new legal or professional relationship, it may seem strange to look to a handwritten agreement. So, for the purposes of clarity and professionalism, it’s best to stick to a typed up agreement in these circumstances.

For more information on legally binding contracts, click the link.

Key Takaways

All in all, handwritten agreements can hold up in court and they can be legally binding. As stated above, to determine whether an agreement, handwritten or typed, is legally binding you must look to the words of the agreement itself. The elements of offer, acceptance, consideration, certainty, legal capacity and intention must be present for an agreement to hold up in court. The courts may not place any weight on the presentation of the agreements. So, it may be of little relevance whether the agreement is in handwriting or typed out. However, if you wish to create a professional or legal relationship with another party, you should opt to type your agreement to ensure it is professional, organised and practical.

Don’t know where to start?
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Mai Sarkissian

Mai is a Digital Marketing Coordinator at Lawpath, working as part of the Content Team. She is in her final year of a Bachelor of Laws degree at the University of Wollongong. She is interested in Business Law and Employment Law.