Are written contracts better than oral contracts?

by Timothy B. Heather, Lawyer Referral Service Panelist

Written contracts are preferred over oral contracts.  Ohio law requires that certain types of contracts must be in writing.  These are:

(1)   Contracts which require someone to respond for someone else’s debt, default, omission, or wrongful act;

(2)   Contracts by the administrator of an estate for the administrator to use his own assets to pay for damages chargeable to the estate;

(3)   Prenuptial agreements between engaged couples which answer various questions of property and rights made in consideration of marriage;

(4)   Contracts for sale of real estate or any interest in real estate;

(5)   Contracts which cannot be fully performed within one year.

A contract to buy a home is an agreement for the sale of land and, therefore, must be in writing.  The requirements that the above mentioned contracts be in writing is known as the Statute of Frauds.

There are other contracts which must be in writing, even though not listed in the Statute of Frauds.  In the commercial context, one of the most important is the requirement that the purchase and sale of goods involving a value of $500 or more must be in writing.  Oral contracts for the sale of goods over $500 are not enforceable.  Ohio, like most states, has adopted the Uniform Commercial Code, which is a collection of laws and rules for businesses which require that certain contracts be in writing.

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