Along with consideration and acceptance, a fundamental principle of contract law is “a meeting of the minds”.
You intuitively know what a meeting of the minds is. It is when the parties have a binding mutual understanding as to the essential terms and conditions of a proposed contract. Without a meeting of the minds, a contract cannot be formed.
Keep in mind this is about essential terms of the contract. In other words, a contract must be definite and certain regarding the terms and requirements; it must identify the subject of the contract (e.g. buying a specific tractor) and articulate the essential commitments and agreements about the subject.
Let’s take the example of buying a tractor. What would the essential elements be? In other words, what is the consideration? Price is the obvious element we would need to agreed upon. Perhaps delivery to your farm is essential; you would not otherwise enter into the contract. If a certain model of tractor is the only one who can perform a specific function you need, delivery of that model is essential. Does the color of the tractor matter or whether the radio is on the right or left of the console? Most likely, not at all because you are concerned only that the tractor can perform the functions as required.
What is most important to keep in mind is that all parties to a contract should have the same, mutual understanding of all the terms in a contract. The meeting of the minds is another good reason to have a written contract rather than an oral contract — you can review all the terms prior to signing the contract and you can always review of the written contract to refresh your memory If you don’t understand what a term means, ask. If you will not agree to a contract without specific requirements, include them in the contract and state that such terms are essential.
The above is a quick overview of the meeting of the minds and there are nuances in the law. Curious about the nuances? Or are you a beginning farmer and have further questions about contracts? You are welcome to contact us — we’re here to help!