Verbal Real Estate Deal

Verbal Real Estate Deal

If I made a verbal agreement on real estate with my Dad and he died before agreement was fulfilled. Can I file the lawsuit against his wife if I have nothing in writing? I cannot afford a lawyer by the hour. The lawyer I have now is working on a contingency, but is doing nothing and a year has already passed. I signed my property to his wife.


You face a number of problems. Your state law very likely provides that contracts for real estate have to be in writing to be enforced. You really need to research state law to determine if there is an exception that might apply to you. The Statute of Frauds is a English law that has been incorporated into the statutes (laws) of most states and provides that no action or lawsuit can be brought on certain types of contracts unless there is a written agreement signed by the party (in this case your late father) to be held to the contract. If your state has adopted a similar statute, you may not be able to enforce the legal agreement.

The statute of limitations might be an issue. This is a law that provides specified durations for the time period during which you can bring a suit. You need to verify that this is not an issue. In many situations the time for bringing a suit on a contract is six years, but the rules vary.

There is another issue that you face as well, the legal equivalent of procrastination, called laches. More formally this might be known as the Doctrine of Laches. This is an equitable concept. The concept of this is that if you sit on your legal rights, you loose them. If you neglect to assert a claim (assuming that the statute of frauds is not an issue) for too long a period, especially if that delay has caused prejudice to the other party, prevents you from suing (its a bar to your claim).

You should be able to undertake some research on these issues on line and at your local library. However, given the complexity of some of the issues, and especially the issue of no written agreement, you should try to get an attorney. You might be able to find a lawyer that will take the case at a reduced rate through your local bar association. Many bar associations have programs to help those that cannot afford full freight for an attorney.

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