Contracts, Agreements, and Legal Instruments:

     This section contains definitions pertaining to both written and unwritten agreements, including but not limited various types of legal instruments such as contractscharging instrumentsdeedsand securities such as bondsliens, mortgages.  This section also contains that which arises from various types of agreements such as obligations and fiduciary relationships.



1. A mutual understanding between two or more persons about their relative rights and duties regarding past or future performances; a manifestation of mutual assent by two or more persons.

2. The parties’ actual bargain as found in their language or by implication from other circumstances, including course of dealing, usage of trade, and course of performance. UCC § 1-201(b)(3). [1]

1. The union of two or more minds in a thing done or to be done; a coming together of parties in opinion or determination; the union of two or more minds in a thing done or to be done.  Woodworth v State, 20 Tex App 375, 380.

A contract where made upon a sufficient consideration to do, or refrain from doing, a particular lawful thing.  17 Am J2d Contr § 1.

The legal import of the word includes not only a promise, but also the consideration for which the promise was made.  Hunt v Adams, 5 Mass 358.
      See articles of agreement; compact; contract. [2]

1. A contract.

2. A concurrence of intention; mutual assent.
     See meeting of the minds.

3. A coming together of parties with respect to a matter of opinion.
     See articles of agreement; collective bargaining agreement; hold harmless agreement; martial agreement; partnership agreement. [3]

     Excerpt from Stephen’s Commentaries on the Laws of England (L. Crispin Warmington ed., 21st ed. 1950):

     “The term ‘agreement,’ although frequently used as synonymous with the word ‘contract,’ is really an expression of greater breadth of meaning and less technicality.  Every contract is an agreement; but not every agreement is a contract. In its colloquial sense, the term ‘agreement’ would include any arrangement between two or more persons intended to affect their relations (whether legal or otherwise) to each other.  An accepted invitation to dinner, for example, would be an agreement in this sense; but it would not be a contract, because it would neither be intended to create, nor would it in fact create, any legal obligation between the parties to it. Further, even an agreement which is intended to affect the legal relations of the parties does not necessarily amount to a contract in the strict sense of the term. For instance, a conveyance of land or a gift of a chattel, though involving an agreement, is . . . not a contract; because its primary legal operation is to effect a transfer of property, and not to create an obligation. [4]

     Excerpt from 1 Samuel Williston, A Treatise on the Law of Contracts § 2, at 6 (Walter H.E. Jaeger ed., 3d ed. 1957):

     “An agreement, as the courts have said, ‘is nothing more than a manifestation of mutual assent’, by two or more parties legally competent persons to one another. Agreement is in some respects a broader term than contract, or even than bargain or promise. It covers executed sales, gifts, and other transfers of property. [5]

Related Terms:

legal instruments – formal documents evidencing the granting of right(s) and/or an agreement (duties, entitlements, and liabilities).

  • contract – a written agreement between two or more parties creating obligations enforceable &/or recognized at law.
  • charging instrument – any of three formal legal documents used to officially charge someone with a crime.
  • deed – a written instrument that is signed, sealed, and delivered and that conveys some interest in property.
  • guaranty – a written promise to answer for the debt, default, or miscarriage of another person, provided such person does not respond by payment or performance.
  • power of attorney – an instrument granting someone authority to act as agent or attorney-in-fact for the grantor, thus creating an agency relationship. — aka letter of attorney; warrant of attorney.
  • security – any interest or instrument relating to finances.
    • bond – a written promise acknowledging the obligation to pay a debt; either as money or to perform some act if certain circumstances occur or a certain time elapses.
    • lien – a legal right or proprietary interest a creditor retains in property until the debt &/or duty that it secures is satisfied.
    • mortgage – a conveyance of title to property that is given as security for the payment of a debt or the performance of a duty and that will become void upon payment or performance according to the stipulated terms. — aka (archaically) dead pledge.
  • undertaking – a written promise, pledge, or engagement thereby binding the signatory to the obligation; unlike a bond, the principal is not required to sign an undertaking.
  • negotiable instrument – a written instrument that is signed by the maker or drawer, includes an unconditional promise or order to pay a specified sum of money, is payable on demand or at a definite time, and is payable to order or to bearer.
    • negotiable – capable of being transferred by delivery or indorsement when the transferee takes the instrument for value, in good faith, and without notice of conflicting title claims or defenses.

That Which May Arise from an Agreements:

obligation – a formal, binding agreement (bond) or acknowledgment of a liability to pay a certain amount, or to perform, or forbear from performing, a certain duty for a particular person(s), whether the duty is imposed by law, contract, promise, oath, duty, or moral responsibility.

fiduciary relationships – one person has a duty to act with a high degree of care for the benefit of another(s) on matters within the scope of the relationship.

  • agency – a fiduciary relationship which arises when one person (a principal) manifests assent to another (an agent) that the agent will act on the principal’s behalf, subject to the principal’s control, and. the agent manifests assent or otherwise consents to do so.
  • guardian/ward relationship – one person with legal authority has duty to care for another’s person or property, especially because of the other’s infancy, incapacity, or disability.
  • settlor/trustee/beneficiary relationship – one person must act with a high degree of care (fiduciarytrustee) in managing the estate of whoever sets up the trust (settlor) in a manner that benefits a beneficiary or beneficiaries.

Types of Agreements:

agreement incident to divorce: See DIVORCE AGREEMENT.

agreement of imperfect obligation: See unenforceable contract under CONTRACT.

agreement of rescission: See RESCISSION (2).

agreement of sale: (18c) An agreement that obligates someone to sell and that may include a corresponding obligation for someone else to buy.

agreement to agree: (1876) 1. An unenforceable agreement that purports to bind two parties to negotiate and enter into a contract; especially, a proposed agreement negotiated with the intent that the final agreement will be embodied in a formal written document and that neither party will be bound until the final agreement is executed. 2. A fully enforceable agreement containing terms that are sufficiently definite as well as adequate consideration, but leaving some details to be worked out by the parties.

     Excerpt from E. Allan Farnsworth’s Contracts (3d ed. 1999):

     “Although the parties [to an agreement with open terms] expect that they will reach agreement on the missing terms, what they expect to happen if they fail to reach agreement is often unclear.  They may understand that there will be no contract at all or they may understand that there will be a contract with the missing term supplied as a matter of law.  If the latter is their understanding, a question arises whether the agreement is one with open terms sufficiently definite to be enforceable or whether it is a mere unenforceable ‘agreement to agree.‘” [6]

agreement to marry: See marriage promise under PROMISE.

agreement to sell: (18c) An agreement that obligates someone to sell.

agreement under seal: See contract under seal under CONTRACT.

antenuptial agreement: See PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENT.

binding agreement: (18c) An enforceable contract. See CONTRACT.

business-continuation agreement: (1951) An agreement for the disposition of a business interest in the event of the owner’s death, disability, retirement, or withdrawal from the business.  *  The agreement may be between the business and its individual owners, among the individual owners themselves, or between the individual owners and a key person, family member, or outsider. — Abbr. BCA.  Cf. cross-purchase agreement; third-party business-buyout agreement.

certified agreement: (1872) Australian law. An agreement between an employer and two or more employees or one or more unions detailing the terms and conditions of employment. — aka collective agreement; enterprise bargaining agreement.

closing agreement: (1929) Tax. A written contract between a taxpayer and the Internal Revenue Service to resolve a tax dispute.

cohabitation agreement: See COHABITATION AGREEMENT.

collective agreement: See COLLECTIVE AGREEMENT. 

cross-purchase agreement: (1979) An agreement between a business’s individual owners to purchase the interest of a withdrawing or deceased owner in order to continue operating the business. — aka crisscross agreement.  Cf. business-continuation agreement; third-party business-buyout agreement.

divorce agreement: See DIVORCE AGREEMENT.

easement agreement: See BASEMENT.

exchange agreement: (1910) An agreement to exchange real properties, usually like-kind properties, often for tax purposes.  See 1031 EXCHANGE; TAX-FREE EXCHANGE.

formal agreement: (17c) An agreement for which the law requires not only the consent of the parties but also a manifestation of the agreement in some particular form (e.g., a signed writing), in default of which the agreement is unenforceable.  Cf. formal contract under CONTRACT.

integrated agreement: See INTEGRATED CONTRACT.

invalid agreement: See invalid contract under CONTRACT.

joint agreement: (16c) A contract under which the parties agree to combine their performances for a mutual purpose.

living-together agreement: See COHABITATION AOREEMENT.

marital agreement: See MARITAL AGREEMENT.

marital settlement agreement: See DIVORCE AGREEMENT.

negotiated agreement: See NEGOTIATED AGREEMENT.

noncircumvention agreement: See NONCIRCUMVEN.TION AGREEMENT.

noncompetition agreement: See covenant not to compete under COVENANT (1).

outsourcing agreement: See OUTSOURCING AGREEa MENT.

point-and-click agreement: See POINT-AND-CLICK AGREEMENT. .

postnuptial agreement: See POSTNUPTIAL AGREEMENT.

prenuptial agreement: See PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENT.

property settlement agreement: See PROPERTY SETTLEMENT (2).

reconciliation agreement: See RECONCILIATION AGREEMENT. \

redemption agreement: See STOCK-REDEMPTION AGREEMENT.

separation agreement: See SEPARATION AGREEMENT.

shrinkwrap agreement: See shrinkwrap license under LICENSE.

side agreement: (1848) 1. An agreement that is ancillary to another agreement. 2. Int’l law. An international accord that is specifically negotiated to supplement a broader trade treaty.  *  For example, NAFTA contains no provisions about labor standards or environmental protection.  But two Side agreements about those areas were negotiated separately and designed to supplement NAFTA, making the treaty more attractive to the ratifying bodies. — aka supplemental agreement.

simple agreement: (18c) An agreement for which the law requires nothing for its effective operation beyond some manifestation that the parties have consented.

stock-retirement agreement: See STOCK-REDEMPTION AGREEMENT.

subordination agreement: See SUBORDINATION AGREEMENT.

surrogate-parenting agreement: See SURROGATE-PARENTING AGREEMENT.

takeover agreement: An agreement under which a defaulting party’s surety agrees to perform the original contract in the defaulting party’s stead.

third-party business-buyout agreement: An agreement by a business’s owners to sell all or part of the business to an outside person who will continue to operate it.  Cf. business-continuation agreement; cross purchase agreement.

trust agreement: See declaration of trust (2) under DECLARATION (1).

unconscionable agreement: (1817) An agreement that no promisor with any sense, and not under a delusion, would make, and that no honest and fair promisee would accept.  *  For commercial contexts, see UCC § 2-302. — aka unconscionable contract; unconscionable bargain.

underwriting agreement: (1898) An agreement between a corporation and an underwriter covering the terms and conditions of a new securities issue.

valid agreement: See valid contract under CONTRACT

voidable agreement: See voidable contract under CONTRACT.

void agreement: See void contract under CONTRACT.

Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. See TRIPS.

Agreement Relating to Liability Limitation of the Warsaw Convention and The Hague Protocol: See MONTREAL AGREEMENT.

agreement under seal: See contract under seal under CONTRACT. L [1]


Disclaimer: All material throughout this website is pertinent to people everywhere, and is being utilized in accordance with Fair Use.

[1]: Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black, Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-61300-4

[2]:  Ballantine’s Law Dictionary Legal Assistant Edition
by Jack Ballantine 
(James Arthur 1871-1949).  Doctored by Jack G. Handler, J.D. © 1994 Delmar by Thomson Learning.  ISBN 0-8273-4874-6.

[4]: 2 Stephen’s Commentaries on the Laws of England 5 (L. Crispin Warmington ed., 21st ed. 1950).

[5]: 1 Samuel Williston, A Treatise on the Law of Contracts § 2, at 6 (Walter H.E. Jaeger ed., 3d ed. 1957).

[6]: E. Allan Farnsworth, Contracts 5 3.29, at 217 (3d ed. 1999).


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