Is a Text Message Legally Binding? The Answer May Surprise You

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In today’s digital age, where text messages have become a primary means of communication, a question often emerges: is a text message legally binding?

The answer might surprise you as it dips into contract law and digital evidence.

Is a Text Message Legally Binding?

Yes, text messages can be legally binding. But for these digital communications to be considered contracts, they must meet certain conditions under contract law.

It’s essential to note that laws surrounding this matter can vary significantly across jurisdictions. For this discussion, let’s focus on Australian contract law.

How Do You Know If You Have a Legally Binding Agreement?

Firstly, we need to understand the essential elements required to form a legally binding contract:

Offer and Acceptance: There must be a clear offer from one party and an unequivocal acceptance of that offer by the other. This agreement can be demonstrated in text messages where one party makes an offer, and the other party responds positively.

Consideration: Consideration refers to something of value exchanged between the parties, such as goods, services, or money. In the context of text messages, consideration could be outlined in the exchange where the parties agree on a price or a service to be provided.

Intention to Create Legal Relations: Both parties must intend to form a legal agreement. This intention could be inferred from the language used in the text messages, the relationship between the parties, the seriousness of the transaction, and other circumstantial evidence.

Certainty and Completeness of Terms: The agreement’s terms must be clear and complete enough for the court to enforce. If essential terms like price, quantity, or delivery date are left vague or undecided in the text messages, the ‘contract’ may be deemed uncertain or incomplete.

When these elements are present in a text message exchange, it could form a legally binding contract enforceable by law.

However, the burden of proving these elements and the authenticity of the messages lies with the person asserting the agreement’s existence.

It’s also crucial to remember that some types of contracts, like those involving real estate, typically require a higher level of formality and must be in writing to be legally enforceable.

Therefore, depending on the nature of the agreement, more than a text message might be required.

In conclusion, while text messages can form a legally binding contract under certain conditions, formalising significant agreements in a more traditional written contract is always prudent.

This ensures clarity of terms and provides more substantial evidence of the agreement’s existence.

Also read: What Happens to Your Social Media When You Die

Contract Law Requirements

The principles of contract law apply whether the contract is formed in person, over a phone call, through an exchange of emails, or, indeed, through a series of text messages.

As long as the essential contractual elements mentioned above are present, a contract can be binding and enforceable regardless of its format.

Are Contracts Made Via Text Messaging Enforceable?

Are texts legal documents? Just like traditional contracts, contracts formed via text messaging are enforceable if they meet the requirements of a valid contract.

Australian courts have increasingly recognised text messages as evidence to prove a contractual agreement’s existence.

However, as with all arrangements, disputes may arise regarding interpreting the text message.

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How Can a Contract Made Through Text Messaging Be Proved?

Can a text message be used as evidence in court? Text messages can be presented as evidence in court to demonstrate that a contractual agreement existed.

Screenshots, phone records, and even testimonies of individuals privy to the text exchanges can be used. It is crucial to record such messages in case they need to be referenced later.

Can a Text Message Be Used as a Will?

Text messages can potentially be recognised as a will under certain circumstances in some Australian jurisdictions, thanks to laws allowing for “informal wills”.

However, whether a text message can be accepted as a will depends largely on the specific circumstances and the court’s decision.

The law recognises that there may be situations where a person cannot make a formal will, but has left clear instructions about how their estate should be distributed.

These instructions can be given in a variety of forms, and in some cases, they have been accepted when given in the form of a text message.

However, it’s crucial to note that for a text message (or any other informal document) to be accepted as a will, it generally needs to demonstrate the testamentary intention of the deceased person – that is, it must show that the person intended the document to serve as their will. The courts will consider various factors in determining whether such intention existed.

In addition, it is crucial to understand the importance of having a will, as the decision to accept an informal will, such as a text message, is ultimately at the court’s discretion. Such cases are likely to be heavily contested, potentially leading to significant legal costs and delays.

A Digital Contract Saved the Day

To better understand how a text message can serve as a legally binding contract, let’s look at a sample case.

A client agreed to rent specific farmland. The unique aspect? The agreement was made entirely through text messages. Their friend, the land owner, agreed to lease the farmland for 120,000 AUD annually. However, two months into the lease, the owner demanded our client pay 200,000 AUD per year instead.

We were tasked with proving that the original agreement via text messages was legally binding. By presenting the text message exchanges, we demonstrated that a contract’s required elements were present: an offer, acceptance, consideration (the lease payment), and a clear intention to create a legal relationship.

Our client continued paying the originally agreed-upon amount, saving them from a potentially substantial financial burden.

Is a Text Message Legally Binding? 

At Walker Pender Group, we can help you navigate the complexities of contract law in the digital age. Contact us today, and let’s use our expertise to protect your interests and uphold your rights.

This article is intended to provide general information and does not constitute legal advice. Laws and their interpretation can change over time, and the application of law can vary based on specific facts and circumstances. Always seek professional advice for your particular situation.

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