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Mar 4, 201310:48 AMOpen Mic

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You’ve been asked to sign a contract … now what?

You’ve been asked to sign a contract … now what?

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Benjamin Franklin famously said, “The only things certain in life are death and taxes.” However, there’s one thing just as certain that Franklin may have missed: contracts. If you’re buying a car, signing up for a new cell phone plan, hiring a contractor, or even sending your child to a private school, you’re sure to encounter them. But fear not, unlike death and taxes, contracts can be a good thing.

The purpose of any legal contract is to protect both parties involved by clearly outlining and defining the terms of an agreement. A good contract will address the extent of the obligation of both the seller and the buyer. It will cover the exact specifications of the goods and services, the delivery method and timeline, and the price to be paid. If a contract is worth its salt, it will give you confidence the company will do what it promises. However, there are some tricks to navigating contracts.

Get some quality “alone time” with your contract: Since the two of you have just met, you need to get to know each other. Make sure you don’t feel pressured to sign a contract on the spot. For the most part, a reputable seller will be comfortable with your need to take some time to review the contract.

Scope out the scope: The scope of a contract is usually written as “terms and conditions.” It’s what’s covered, and more importantly, what’s not covered by the contract. Take time to consider the best-case scenario and the worst-case scenario outlined in the contract. If you can live with the latter, you’re in good shape. If not, you might consider having an attorney look over the contract for you. If that sounds worse than living with the worst-case scenario, reconsider the reason you’re signing the contract in the first place.

Don’t believe anything you hear … unless you see it in writing: Insist that all verbal promises are included in the contract. Trying to prove what someone said after the fact is extremely difficult. A contract can only cover what’s included, not what’s implied.

Contracts are written on paper, not in stone: If there’s something in the contract that really bothers you and may be a deal-breaker, consider having it rewritten. Small changes can usually be scratched out and initialed with both parties’ consent. Bigger changes may require drafting a new copy.

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