Can a commitment in email be binding?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can a commitment in email be binding?

My father-in-law created a living Trust with his 5 daughters as beneficiaries. He passed 4 months ago and allows 1 daughter to live in his house for 2 years expenses paid from the Trust. She can waive her right and the house would be sold. In January, through an email from her attorney the daughter waived her right and said the house would be put up for sale in the spring. As of last Friday as changed her mind and now says she wants the house. Can she revoke her waiver? She believes she has the 2 years to do what she wants. Is the email from her attorney binding? The daughter also is the trustee.

Asked on March 25, 2019 under Estate Planning, Texas


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

What you describe is not binding--not because it is in email (binding contracts can be created by email), but rather because it does not meet the criteria to be a contract. A contract requires "consideration," or something of value, from each side to the other side. She was not receiving anything of value for her promise to waive her right and let the house be sold. Without her receiving consideration, this not a contract but only a non-contractual, or as it is often called, "gratuitious," promise, and a non-contractual promise is not binding; it may be freely reneged upon.

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