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Whether a legally valid contract was formed depends on a number of factors, including whether the parties reached agreement, whether consideration was present, and whether the agreement was legal. Agreement may seem like an intuitive concept, but intuition is not a sufficient guide to the existence of agreement in legal terms. The most common way of examining an agreement for legal sufficiency is by determining whether a valid offer and acceptance were made.
An offer is a manifestation of willingness to enter into a bargain such that it would be reasonable for another individual to conclude that assent to the offer would complete the bargain. Offers must be communicated and must be definite; that is, they must spell out terms to which the offeree can assent.
An important aspect of the offer is its duration. An offer can expire in any one of several ways: (1) rejection, (2) counteroffer, (3) acceptance with counteroffer, (4) lapse of time, (5) death or insanity of the offeror or destruction of an essential term, (6) illegality, and (7) revocation. No understanding of agreement is complete without a mastery of these conditions.
To constitute an agreement, an offer must be accepted.
The offeree must manifest his assent to the terms of the offer in a manner invited or required by the offer. Complications arise when an offer is accepted indirectly through correspondence. Although offers and revocations of offers are not effective until received, an acceptance is deemed accepted when sent if the offeree accepts in the manner specified by the offeror. But the nuances that arise because of the mailbox rule and acceptance by silence require close attention to the circumstances of each agreement.
Acme Corporation sent the following letter, here set out in its entirety:
January 2, 2012
We hereby offer you 100 Acme golden widgets, size 6. This offer will be good for 10 days.
[Signed] Roberta Acme
Owner, Acme Corporation
Is this offer irrevocable for the time stated? Explain.
In interpreting agreements for the purpose of establishing whether a valid contract exists, courts generally apply
A valid offer must be
An offer generally
An acceptance is generally considered effective