Legal English – Peter’s Pills – Lesson 51 – Contracts vs Deeds

Legal English for Notaries - By Federnotizie

Contracts vs Deeds



Today we look at the differences between contracts and deeds. These legal documents differ in several essential aspects, including their legal requirements, purpose, and form.

A contract is a legally binding agreement between two or more parties, where each party agrees to perform specific duties or provide benefits to the other parties. Generally, contracts do not require any formalities, and they can be written, oral or by conduct, but the last two will be harder to prove (più difficile da provare).

A deed, on the other hand, transfers ownership of a property or asset from one party to another. Unlike contracts, deeds require specific formalities to be valid, including the signature of the grantor (the party transferring ownership – cedente), the signatures of witnesses, and sometimes a notarization. Please note that a deed does not require the signature of the grantee (cessionario). Deeds can be used to transfer real estate, intellectual property, or other assets. Section1 of the UK Law of Property Act 1989 states that a deed must:

  • make it clear on its face that it is intended to be a deed;
  • be validly executed.

To be validly executed it must also be:

  • Signed;
  • Witnessed;
  • Delivered (making it clear in the deed that it is intended to be delivered on the date it is signed by the grantor).

Another difference between contracts and deeds is their level of consideration (più o meno controprestazione; più o meno sinallagma) . Consideration is the benefit one party provides to the other party in exchange for the performance or agreement of the other party. In contracts, consideration can be anything of value, including money, promises, services, or goods. However, deeds do not require consideration because they are used to transfer ownership without any obligations from the grantee.

Contracts and deeds have different legal effects. A contract can be enforced (fatto valere) by law if one party fails to perform their obligations, and it can be used as evidence in court. In contrast, deeds are used to transfer legal title to a property or asset, and they are recorded (registrato) or filed (depositato) in official records to provide proof of ownership.

Contracts are used to formalize agreements between parties, while deeds are used to transfer ownership of assets from one party to another.

Thank you, and see you next time for more Peter’s Pills to improve your legal English.

Read more about the the execution of deeds in the UK here: “Practice guide 8: execution of deeds“.

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