The statute of frauds is a law in Massachusetts that requires that certain contracts be in writing and signed by the parties. If an agreement has to satisfy the statute of frauds, but does not, courts will not enforce the deal if someone breaches the contract.
Massachusetts' Statute of Frauds
There are two laws, G. L. c. 106, § 2-201 and G. L. c. 259, § 1, that make up Massachusetts' statute of frauds. Together, they are some of the oldest laws in the state, and can be traced all the way back to the original Acts and Resolves of 1692.
The point of the statute of frauds is to prevent someone from lying about an agreement that was made. Without the statute of frauds, Person A could falsely claim that Person B had orally agreed to buy his house. Person B would then have to argue that this discussion and agreement never happened, which can be very difficult to do. It would turn into a “he said, she said” argument that would rely on their credibility. If Person B cannot prove that Person A is lying, he or she could be forced by a court to complete a big transaction that they never agreed to make.
With the statute of frauds, courts demand to see a written and signed contract. If one is not produced, the court will refuse to enforce the purported agreement. This protects innocent people and businesses from fraudsters and speeds up contract disputes, all by simply requiring the agreement be in writing and signed.
What Agreements are Covered by the Statute of Frauds?
The statute of frauds only covers the following types of agreements:
- Payments from a deceased person's estate
- Contracts to pay for someone else's debt
- Contracts in consideration of marriage, like a prenuptial agreement
- Real estate transactions
- Agreements that will not be performed within one year
- The sale of more than $500 in goods
How Can I Satisfy the Statute of Frauds?
If an agreement is made that falls into any of these categories, then it has to be:
- In writing, and
- Signed by the person who is being accused of breaching the deal.
This means that a verbal agreement will not be enforced, if the statute of frauds needs to be satisfied.
Importantly, though, not all of the terms of the agreement have to be set out. As long as the signed and written agreement contains the essential terms of the contract and shows that the parties intended to be bound by it, the statute of frauds will be satisfied and courts will honor and enforce the contract.
The written agreement does not necessarily have to be on paper, either: Under Massachusetts' Uniform Electronic Transactions Act, online communications can satisfy the statute of frauds. This includes emails and even, in one Massachusetts case, text messages.
Massachusetts Contract Litigation Lawyers at the Katz Law Group
Satisfying the statute of frauds can make or break a contract. The business and contract litigation lawyers at the Katz Law Group can help you protect your rights and interests. Contact them online or call them at (508) 480-8202 for help in Worcester, Marlborough, Framingham, or the rest of Massachusetts.