Parties to an agreement are always allowed to change the terms upon mutual agreement. Oral modifications can occur - but hard to prove. Sometimes circumstances reveal a change of the agreement, or at least that one party acquiesced to the change.
The written agreement is right there for all to read and understand - powerful evidence.
I hope this helps.
Steven A. Leahy
Please note that the above is not intended as legal advice, it is for educational purposes only. No attorney-client relationship is created or is intended to be created hereby. You should contact a local attorney to discuss and to obtain legal advice.
The written agreement may contain a clause stating that the agreement cannot be modified except in writing. In that case, it would be even more difficult, if not impossible, to argue successfully that the later oral agreement changed the written agreement. There are some limited exceptions to this (for example, if a party to the original contract was induced to sign it by fraud), but you would need an attorney to review the contract and surrounding circumstances to give you a more in-depth answer.
As hinted at in the first answer, you are going to have to prove that the course of conduct of the parties proves the agreement was modified. However, if there is a provision that precludes oral modifications, you're out of luck. In your case, you may be able to prove the oral modification. You will need to show that the oral agreement was made around the same time that the life insurance policies were taken out. If a court or jury agrees that the partners would not have purchased the life insurance unless the main purpose was to provide a funding mechanism for the buy out, then you may be able to prove the modification.
Any response is not legal advice and should not be considered legal advice. Always consult an attorney in your state or jurisdiction, as laws vary from state to state.
Under Texas law, any agreement can be modified orally -- even those that state that there can be no oral modifications or that all modifications have to be in writing. The courts have held that the parties can orally agree to modify the no-modification provision.
The problem that you have with an oral modification is proving it, particularly where on eof the parties is now deceased.
But, you can use the actions of the parties to prove an oral modification. Here, in addition to the testimony of the surviving partners, you could argue that if the surviving spouse were to get both the insurance proceeds and an interest in the partnership, she would be receiving a windfall not intended by the parties. Perhaps the insurance agent or company has some documentation for the purpose of the insurance -- that could be your written proof.
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