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Irrevocable Agreement — Defined

Sarah Edwards | November 04, 2022

Summary: An irrevocable agreement is a contract that has binding terms once it’s been accepted. In other words, you can’t back out of an irrevocable agreement.

When it comes to contract law, it’s essential to know the difference between a revocable and an irrevocable agreement.

In its basic form, a revocable agreement is an offer that an individual or entity can withdraw before the other party accepts it.

An irrevocable agreement is one that the offering party cannot withdraw. This type of agreement is standard in business contracts and trusts. The terms are binding once accepted.

What are the essential elements of a contract?

A contract has three basic elements: an offer, acceptance, and consideration.

An offer occurs when a party decides to make a proposal to another individual or entity. The offer includes the terms of the agreement, including what services or goods the offeror will provide, the cost, and any specific details, like when to expect delivery.

Most offers are revocable between the time of the offer and its acceptance.

An acceptance occurs when the offeree accepts the agreement. The offeree must accept all terms of the contract without modifications. If the offeree presents a counteroffer, there is no acceptance. The offeree establishes a new offer, and the original offeror can accept it or provide another counteroffer.

The final element of a contract is consideration. Consideration is the final stamp of approval on the contract and involves an exchange of money or a promise to pay or perform some action.

If a contract does not include all three of these elements, it is not valid. However, once the contract meets all three conditions, it becomes an irrevocable agreement.

Once the contract is irrevocable, parties must abide by its terms. If one party fails to honor their part of the agreement, the other party can seek damages.

Some contracts contain language that allows one or both parties to revoke the terms of the agreement under certain circumstances. If the contract includes terms allowing parties to rescind the agreement, courts consider it a revocable contract.

Are all offers revocable?

Not all offers are revocable. In some cases, the offeror can use language that stipulates that the offer is irrevocable. Usually, an irrevocable offer remains so until something happens: either a specified date passes or an event occurs.

One example of an irrevocable offer is an option contract. Option contracts are prevalent in real estate transactions where a renter has the right to purchase the property for a given period of time at a specific price. If the tenant accepts the offer within the timeframe, they will own the property.

Another example of an irrevocable offer is a waiver or release. A waiver or release prevents the accepting party from filing a personal injury lawsuit or similar claim. For example, the owner of a children’s bouncy house may require parents to sign a waiver to allow their kids to play in it.

How does an irrevocable trust agreement work?

An irrevocable trust agreement is an asset protection and estate planning strategy that some individuals use. A person seeking to protect their financial assets and property works with a lawyer to create an irrevocable trust.

The grantor of the estate assigns a trustee to manage all the property in the estate. They also transfer full ownership of the assets in the trust to the trustee.

Since the trustee essentially owns the property, it is nearly impossible for creditors or other individuals to claim the assets in a lawsuit against the grantor. However, once the grantor establishes the irrevocable trust, the grantor cannot change its terms or beneficiaries.

Irrevocable trusts can benefit some individuals, but they are inflexible arrangements. If an event like a divorce or a death occurs, the grantor cannot adjust the terms of the irrevocable trust to accommodate the changes.

A revocable trust allows the grantor to make changes. However, the agreement becomes irrevocable when the grantor of the trust dies. The trustee must carry out the terms of the revocable trust per the grantor’s wishes, including distributing assets to the proper beneficiaries.

Why would someone want an irrevocable agreement?

Some agreements are irrevocable by nature. For instance, a contract becomes irrevocable once it consists of all three elements: offer, acceptance, and consideration. While parties still have the right to decide whether they’ll fulfill the terms of the contract, if they don’t, they may face a lawsuit.

Irrevocable agreements help ensure that parties act in accordance with the terms of a contract or other legal document. Without an irrevocable agreement, parties could withdraw from the contract without consequences. Contracts help consumers and businesses conduct their affairs with a complete understanding of their actions.

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