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What Is an Entire Contract?

By Alex Newth
Updated May 16, 2024
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An entire contract, also known as an indivisible contract, means every part of a contract must be agreed upon as a whole, and no parts can be taken out or changed. Parties using an entire contract must perform their duties before asking other parties to perform duties, and the contract may end if parties cannot do their part. Many contracts are formed between two or more parties via conversations and agreements that are not written into the contract. While some contracts allow this, the entire contract deems all outside communication invalid. This contract has many uses, including in construction and insurance.

A contract comes with a variety of clauses, responsibilities and tasks that must be performed for the contract to be satisfied. If one or more parties dislike a part of a contract after it is signed, then it normally can be modified or deleted — if everyone agrees on the change. With an entire contract, this is impossible. Each part of the contract must be maintained as a whole.

Parties that enter into a contract usually have one or more duties to fulfill, and all the parties must do their part according to the contract’s rules. With an entire contract, parties cannot ask other parties to perform duties unless they themselves have done their part. For example, if the contract specifies that someone must pay another party by a certain month if that party performs its duty, but the duty is not complete, the party cannot pressure the client to pay. Any party can halt its responsibilities if other parties are not completing their own responsibilities.

When a contract is being written up, parties usually talk to one another beforehand and may enter into verbal agreements. These agreements are typically not written into the contract, because all parties have agreed to the verbal terms and it takes time to change the contract. An entire contract does not recognize verbal agreements, only what is written in the contract itself. This means verbal agreements do not have to be satisfied, nor can they be brought up in legal proceedings.

The entire contract clause is not limited to any one industry or use; it can be used in nearly any type of contract. This is typically used in construction, insurance and entertainment. Parties usually like this contract because it keeps them from having to pay or perform duties unless the other parties also are performing their duties.

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Discussion Comments
By Terrificli — On May 14, 2014

@Markerrag -- true, but would an entire contract even be possible in your scenario? What if Neil has to raise his price because the price of paint went up after the contract was signed? That is a very likely scenario and one that cannot be dealt with under an entire contract.

Typical contracts are still used because they allow for such contingencies.

By Markerrag — On May 14, 2014

This should be the preferred form of contract when it is possible to use it. Why? Think of a contract that can be amended with the agreement of the parties and the problems that can cause when one party has more leverage than the other.

For example, say Neil and Bob enter into a contract through which Neil agrees to paint Bob's house for $2,000 within a week. Bob is obliged to pay Neil $1,000 at the start of the contract and $1,000 when the job is finished. The house is to be painted in one week.

Neil informs Bob he wants to amend the contract so the house will be painted in two weeks. Bob doesn't like that arrangement, but he feels obliged to agree to the amendment. If he doesn't, he knows that he will have to negotiate a contract with some other painter and, perhaps, sue Neil for breach of contract and try to get the $1,000 back.

The parties are never at odds over such details in an entire contract. Everyone knows that their rights and obligations are, know that they cannot be changed and are compelled to complete the contract on the terms set out in it.

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