potential clients and friends share with us their belief that a
contract does not exist unless it is in writing, or the belief that
one automatically has a right of cancellation on any contract entered
into. Both are commonly held perceptions which are generally incorrect.
A legally binding "contract" is nothing more than the promise to
do something, or sell something, by one party
return for something of value from the other party. The thing of
value given for the promise may be money, it may be services, or
it may be something much more intangible; and lawyers often litigate
the issue of whether adequate value was received for a promise,
whether a promise was kept, whether the parties bargained fairly
with each other, etc.
rare exception, however, a contract does not have to be in writing.
A contract can be formed by nothing more than a handshake, a verbal
agreement, the nod of a head, or even one's silence when an act
is performed on one's behalf or one receives something of value.
In general, the only time a written contract is required is for
those contracts: (1) which cannot be completed within one year (2)
for the sale of real property, or (3) to pay the debts of another.
Of course, most contracts are in writing, and for good reason: a
writing is the best evidence a contract exists in the event a dispute
arises over whether a contract has been entered into.
Many also believe they automatically have 3 days to cancel any contract
they sign. Again, with some limited statutory exceptions, this is
incorrect. Once a contract is agreed to it is immediately binding
and enforceable unless breached in some manner. A right of cancellation
exists only where the Florida Legislature has carved out a right of
cancellation or where a right of cancellation
stated in the contract. Some examples of the types of contracts in
which the Legislature has granted a right of cancellation are: time
share contracts, funeral and cemetery service contracts, telephone
solicitation contracts, buyers' club contracts, health club and dance
studio contracts, home improvement contracts, certain land sale contracts,
campground contracts, and certain credit contracts. In general, though,
unless specifically provided for in a written contract, one should
never assume a right of cancellation exists on any contract one enters