Is a handshake legally binding?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Is a handshake legally binding?

I was offered corporate shares at 1.00/share if I could get my employees back to work, after they voluntarily left work when I did. I left my work as a manager when I discovered that my 2 brothers would inherit the same as myself and they had never worked for mother, as I had for 35 years. Mother decided that the 120 shares of corporate stock be split 3 equal ways. I did not appreciate this split and felt that I could just sit back and wait just as they were doing, so I walked. My youngest brother offered a deal of 1.00/share for their shares if I could get the employees back to work. I accepted that deal and it was finalized with a handshake and the employees were called back to work. When asked to complete the transfer of the shares to me, I was asked if that was in writing? the shares have not been transferred to me to date. Is the handshake legally binding in Ohio?

Asked on April 16, 2019 under Employment Labor Law, Ohio


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

A "handshake" is not binding, but an oral (unwritten) contract or agreement may be. There was such an oral agreement in this case--what you and your brother discussed; the understanding between the two of you. While there are certain contracts or ageements that must be in writing to be enforced (under what is commonly called the "statute of frauds"), such as to purchase land/real estate, to pay another person's debts, or which cannot, due to their nature (i.e. what has to be done) be performed within one year, the agreement you describe does not appear to fall under those "must in writing" categories. Therefore, it appears that you could legally enforce this agreement against your brother. Of course, to do so, you'd have to be able to prove the existence and terms of the agreement, which is much more difficult with an unwritten agreement than with a written one.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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