Lesson from McCartney-Mills divorce: Get it in writing

Lesson from McCartney-Mills divorce: Get it in writing

GET IT IN WRITING… ALWAYS.

The National Trial Lawyers recently reported that a California court upheld a ruling that Heather Mills, ex-wife of former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney, will not have to pay her ex-publicist $168,000 in disputed fees. A panel of judges ruled on appeal that the publicist failed to provide “sufficient evidence” that there was an agreement to pay their fees. Apparently, upon retaining the PR firm, Mills promised that she would pay for the services when she received the “big money” in her divorce. After receiving almost $50 million dollars, Mills denied knowledge of owing the PR firm any such debt.

Despite what might seem inequitable, the court properly ruled in favor of Mills. In any matter where there is a future promise to pay, it is black letter law that a written contract is required. Therefore, when dealing with any personal or business transaction, it is crucial to reduce the oral contract to writing. And, importantly, take the extra step of having the writing signed in front of a notary.

If possible, consult an attorney and make sure the proper legal language is included. It may seem like a waste of money for (what at the time) a seemingly trustworthy oral promise. However, for Mills’ publicist, proceeding without a written agreement was a $168,000 mistake. The PR company could have paid a small fee for a simple written contract indicating that upon receipt of the proceeds of Mills divorce settlement, she would be required to make payment within a date certain. Simple.

Don’t be a victim and make the same mistake. A small legal fee now can provide long term security.

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Photo credit: Belastingdocument over de Honderdste Penning, 1713 from Rijks Museum

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