What Is a Contract?
A contract is an enforceable agreement between two or more people, which can be either oral or written. A contract must be supported by “consideration,” which is either a promise to do or not do something or the transfer or giving up of something of value (like money!) to the other person.

What Happens If I Signed a Contract Before I Turned 18?
A contract signed before you were 18 years old is not automatically void. Instead, the contract continues until you “disaffirm” or cancel it. Or you can affirm it once you turn 18. If you decide to disaffirm a contract, you must return any money or property received. And contracts for necessities like food or shelter typically can’t be cancelled. So don’t think you can get that Big Mac for free!

Does a Contract Have To Be In Writing?
Not usually. But a few contracts must be in writing. These include contracts where you promise to pay someone else’s debt, a contract made in consideration of marriage, like a “prenup,” a contract for the sale of real estate or land, any lease agreement for more than 1 year, or any contract that cannot be performed within 1 year of the making of the contract.

Why Are Written Contracts Preferable?
If a dispute arises, a written contract provides proof of the agreed-upon terms and conditions. With some exceptions, a court may not accept evidence about oral terms of the contract if there is a complete written contract. You are presumed to know the terms, conditions, and your responsibilities when you sign a contract – so make sure you read all that small print!

What Should I Do If I’m Asked to Sign a Contract?
Read the contract carefully, make sure you understand all of it, and cross out any parts that are not what you agreed on. If you have any questions regarding the language in the contract, contact a lawyer for help. Never let someone pressure you! Also, make sure the other party signs the contract and that you get a copy of it for your records.

What Happens If I Miss Payments or Breach the Contract?
If you fail to complete the contract or miss payments, without any legal basis to do so, you can be sued. Sometimes, if you just miss a payment, a creditor will work with you – but they usually don’t have to!

What Happens If I’m Sued?
If you are sued for breach of contract, you will be served with a summons and given a chance to defend yourself. If the court determines you are at fault, you may have a judgment entered against you, requiring you to pay money or otherwise make good on the contract.

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