It's a familiar story repeated many times. Someone loans a friend money,
only to lose the money and the friend. A friend lets another friend live
temporarily under the same roof, only to inherit a permanent roommate. These
all-too-common situations can be avoided by putting the terms of these
agreements in writing.
In their new book, "Put It in Writing!" authors Deborah Hutchison and
Judge Lynn Toler emphasize that "written agreements signed by both parties
are far superior to oral and implied agreements, because they give the
parties some certainty and clarity … they become tools for better
communication." The book explains how the two parties can come to a mutually
advantageous agreement that specifies the details, minimizes the danger of
hard feelings, has a written record of the terms and benefits both parties.
When you put an agreement on paper, consider these tips to reduce the
chance of any misunderstandings:
Use the correct names of everyone involved.
Answer the when, where, how, how much and how often.
Include specific dates and time periods.
Clearly state any amounts and values.
Identify any property involved.
Attach any schedules to record each one's responsibilities.
Don't just say what, say how.
Prepare for the unexpected.
Once you are ready to sign the agreement, it is advisable to read it out
loud (to catch mistakes), ask questions, ask a third party to read it, and
sleep on it (sign it later).
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The most common situations and agreements
The majority of the book is devoted to a review, analysis and advice on
the 11 most common agreements between family, friends or interested parties.
The authors also include with each of the 11 scenarios a blank sample
agreement form that you can customize for your particular needs. These
agreements include situations such as:
Lending personal property.
Caring for aging parents.
Safe driving for teenagers.
Shared pets and pet care.
Lending a vacation home.
A blank agreement for any conceivable arrangement.
A good example of these 11 agreements is the care for aging parents. This
agreement identifies all of the siblings involved, explains the siblings'
commitment to the parents' care and well-being, defines the conditions for
parents who live on their own or with a sibling, the finances that are
required and who will pay what, who will make the daily and major decisions,
how to establish the lines of communication, and the signatures of everyone
participating. Other attached forms to this agreement can define any other
shared responsibilities, relief for the primary caregiver or the parents'
expenses arising from the agreement.
"Put It in Writing!" is a clear, easy-to-use guide that helps parties
come to an arrangement that is fair, compatible and respectful of their
relationship to each other. According to Hutchison: "What I have discovered
is that writing up an agreement helps everyone involved move past the
emotions that come up when we deal with friends and family members.
Agreements make it possible to help each other and at the same time
establish boundaries so that relationships aren't put into jeopardy by
miscommunication or misunderstandings."
This book is recommended to anyone seeking straightforward language and
guidelines to draft a personal agreement with a friend or loved one.
[Text copied from file received
from Richard Sumrall,
Lincoln Public Library District]