Executing documents—deeds and simple contracts
Executing documents—deeds and simple contracts

The following Commercial guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Executing documents—deeds and simple contracts
  • Creating contracts
  • Simple contracts
  • What is a deed?
  • When is a deed required?
  • Formalities for deeds
  • Counterparts and virtual signings
  • Electronic signatures

This Practice Note summarises the law, guidance and practice relating to the execution of simple contracts and deeds. It considers the key differences between deeds and simple contracts, the particular transactions for which a deed is required and the execution formalities for deeds and contracts, including virtual execution and electronic signatures.

Creating contracts

A contract is a legally binding agreement that grants rights and creates duties between two or more parties. There is a vast amount of case law on contract law principles which are not covered in depth here. In the simplest possible terms, contract law principles provide that for a contract to exist, four key elements must be present:

  1. an offer must have been made

  2. that offer must have been accepted

  3. valuable consideration must be given for the promises being made, and

  4. the parties must intend to enter into a legal relationship with one another

Contracts can be made:

  1. orally

  2. ‘under hand’ (in writing), or

  3. by deed

For more information on the formation of contracts, see: Formation and interpretation—overview.

Contracts made orally or in writing are known as 'simple contracts'. A deed requires a number of additional formalities to be complied with in order to be validly formed.

Simple contracts

There are certain situations when a written (as opposed to oral) contract is required by law or is necessary to