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Is Your Letter of Intent Legally Binding? Know Where You Stand

April 26, 2024

Posted in Uncategorized

When you’re involved in high-stake business deals, understanding the implications of a Letter of Intent (LOI) is crucial. An LOI, whether it’s referred to as a memorandum of understanding, a term sheet, or a “deal memo,” outlines the preliminary understandings of parties before they enter a formal contract. But the big question remains: Is a Letter of Intent an enforceable contract?

Understanding Letters of Intent

A Letter of Intent is usually a stepping stone to a formal agreement. It sets out the basic terms and conditions of a proposed transaction between parties who intend to formalize these details into a binding contract later on. While the primary goal is not to bind the parties immediately, it serves as a foundation for further negotiation.

When Can a Letter of Intent Become Binding?

Despite its preliminary nature, under certain circumstances, an LOI can be binding. If the document includes all the elements of a contract—offer, acceptance, and consideration—it might legally hold the parties to its terms. For instance, if an LOI clearly states terms and conditions accepted by all parties and is intended to be binding until a formal agreement is drafted, it may be considered enforceable.

Key Court Decisions on LOIs

  • In cases like First Nat’l Mortgage Co. v Federal Realty Inv. Trust, the courts have determined that even without a formal contract, a document titled as a “Final Proposal” can be binding if it explicitly states that the parties have agreed to the terms pending formal approval.
  • Conversely, in J.B. Enterprises Int’l, LLC v. Sid & Marty Kroft Pictures Corp, the courts decided that the LOI did not create a binding obligation because it explicitly stated that a definitive agreement was needed for the deal to proceed.

Tips for Drafting an Effective Letter of Intent

If you’re drafting an LOI and want to avoid unintentional commitments:

  1. Specify Non-Binding Intent: Clearly state that the LOI is for discussion purposes only and does not constitute a binding agreement.
  2. Detail the Terms: Include all necessary terms and conditions you intend to negotiate in the future.
  3. Set a Clear Path: Outline the steps required for transitioning from an LOI to a binding agreement.


For investors like you, who manage significant assets and prioritize integrity and trust, understanding every legal document’s potential impact is essential. Whether an LOI is binding depends significantly on its content and the context of its use.

For more insights into navigating complex business transactions and ensuring your interests are protected, visit or call us directly at (714) 415-2007