“We’ve all heard the expression ‘An oral agreement isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.’ That old expression has certainly run true in my pracice in the last several years,” said Attorney James Ungrodt of Kiel.
Attorney Ungrodt asks several thought-provoking questions.
“Although it is possible to have a valid contract that is not in writing, how do you prove the provisions of the contract. Do both parties have the same memory of what occurred? This is especially true with friends and relatives. You probably discussed a situation with them many times, and each person remembers some aspects of the conversations different from the other party. One is compelled to ask, what is the final deal? The one we talked about a year ago or the one we spoke of six months ago? We talked about this, and when we did so it was in the bar up the street and we were getting a bit foggy!
“What happens if the person is suddenly disabled, or dies?
Contracts concerning real estate must be in writing and Wisconsin Statutes are clear about the requirements of the agreement.
“For example, you’ve lent a friend some money over the years and he has usually paid you back. He is also your ‘hunting buddy’ and both of you and several friends own some hunting land. You both agree that he’ll deed his interest in the hunting land to you for another $2,000. You give him the money and he is killed in a car accident the next day, or, what if he is incapacitated and needs a guardian, it is the guardian’s duty to guard that person’s assets. You are probably out of luck.”
Buying land from a friend
Attorney Ungrodt offers a second example.
“Let us posit the same situation with you buying some land from your friend. He’s always been trustworthy and you pay him the money and he signs a deed. Having a title search done was certainly something you thought you didn’t need.