Contracts formalize agreements and smooth out transactions between businesses and individuals. When parties sign a contract, everyone is on the same page and has a documented record of their agreement.
But, some contract terms are challenging to understand. Lawyers sometimes use complex language and words that have a specific meaning.
Contract effective date vs. execution date are two contract terms that are easy to mix up. The key to interpreting them right is understanding what these terms mean.
Once all parties can differentiate the contract effective date vs. execution date, they’ll have an easier time upholding their end of the bargain. And this can help them avoid costly mistakes.
Contract Dates Explained
Most contracts contain several dates. These often include the date the parties signed the contract and the date it goes into effect. They also usually outline when the contract expires or renews and other deadlines for deliverables.
While not all contracts will contain all these dates, most have at least an effective date and an execution date.
Contract Effective Date
The contract effective date states when the contract will go into effect. It’s when the parties agree that the contract will become legally binding. Before that date, it’s an unenforceable contract.
The effective start date should be in the contract terms. But it isn’t necessarily the date the parties sign the contract. For example, one party may lease a house from another for the summer. The effective date of the contract may be June 1, but both parties could sign the contract in March.
The contract execution date is when both parties complete and sign the contract. The contractual relationship isn’t legally binding until the effective date. But, the execution date is significant because it indicates that both parties intend to enter into a contract together on a specific date.
In some cases, the parties may sign the contract on different dates. When that happens, the execution date is the day the last party signed the contract. At this point, it becomes an executed contract.
Executing a contract is one of the most critical steps in contract management. It shows when the parties can take action on executory contracts.
The Importance of Accurate Contract Dates
The terms of a signed contract aren’t enforceable until the effective date. If the effective date is different from the execution date, the parties should know that. Contracts contain legally enforceable agreements. Misunderstanding the dates can cause one or both parties to commit a breach of contract.
Accurate dates help avoid contract ambiguity and:
- Avoid legal disputes: If parties aren’t clear on the contract dates, they may disagree about whether one party breached the contract. Contract disputes can be expensive to resolve. In the worst case, they may go to litigation and need a law firm to resolve.
- Set clear expectations: The parties should set definite dates for every action in the contract. If there is a disagreement, it’s easy to refer to the original contract when the dates are clear and accurate.
- Track performance and accountability: Accurate contract dates provide a measure for tracking performance. They set a timeline for when each party needs to fulfill their part of the agreement. All parties can use the dates to determine if they’re fulfilling their legal obligations on time.
- Renew or cancel contracts: Businesses can manage their signed agreements better if they have exact dates. They can also take steps to prepare to renegotiate, renew, or cancel the contract.
Best Practices for Managing Contract Dates
Companies should track their contract management lifecycle with care. It will help them meet deadlines and other critical requirements.
Contract management is a process of managing legally binding documents. It involves handling contracts from creation to completion. And it helps businesses:
- Get the most value from their contracts
- Follow legal regulations
- Stay in control of their relationships with third parties
But, businesses use many contracts, and managing all their dates can take time and effort. Implementing the following best practices can simplify the task:
Centralize and Standardize Agreements
Many businesses use the same contracts repeatedly. For instance, employment contract provisions often contain similar clauses and languages. So, creating them from scratch each time can be tedious. Companies can manage contracts better by standardizing contract templates ahead of time.
Templates can cover the majority of the contract terms and conditions. Parties often only need to adjust the specifics.
Using standard dates whenever possible will also simplify contract renewals and expirations. It will allow the approval authority to review contracts at set dates — instead of doing so throughout the year at random.
Another best practice for contract management is storing all contracts in one place. This allows for quick check-ups, which is particularly convenient in case of a dispute.
Using tags to label contracts with identifiers also simplifies organization and retrieval. Some handy labels to use include:
- Effective date
- Renewal date
- Contract type (such as sales contracts)
Identify and Track Key Dates
Businesses won’t miss important deadlines if they stay on top of key contract dates. Some high-priority dates all parties should be aware of and account for include:
- Effective dates: The contract’s start and end dates are among the most basic and important contract points. They define when the contract is enforceable.
- Renewal dates: The parties need to know the renewal date so they can decide whether to renew, cancel, or renegotiate the contract. Renewable contracts often have a notice period. This is the time by which one party has to notify the other if they intend to cancel.
- Milestone dates: Some contracts have specific deadlines parties must meet during the contract term. The contracting parties should track these milestone dates to avoid penalties or breach of contract.
- Payment dates: If a contract includes payment dates, the parties must know them so they can make or receive payments on time.
- Review dates: It’s a good idea to audit contracts for performance review and relevance. Business leaders should consider the costs and benefits of a contract before there’s a time crunch for renewal or termination.
Set Realistic Deadlines
When businesses have a lot of contracts, they also have a lot of deadlines. That’s why they should set realistic deadlines based on their obligations and priorities. This can help them avoid errors that can damage their reputation.
The first step in setting deadlines for contract management is to understand diverse contact aspects. These are the scope, complexities, and timeframe of each project.
Next, everyone involved in executing the contract should know the due dates. Their expertise can provide insight into how long processes will take. Involved parties can also better estimate when they can complete tasks. They can plan to avoid stress that could impact quality and performance.
All contract deadlines should also have built-in time for reviews and adjustments.
Use Contract Management Software
Effective contract management involves juggling a lot of balls. Dropping one can cost a lot of money. So, businesses should have a clear understanding of who should be doing what and when. Otherwise, they risk expensive litigation or losing important relationships. They may also have to settle for less-than-ideal renewal terms.
Contract management software can help. Such a program automates many aspects of contract management. It saves time and money businesses often waste with poor (and manual) contract management.
Contract management software provides the following benefits for organizations:
- Organized access to contracts for easy search and retrieval
- Simplified sorting of all contract information
- Proactive review of contracts for favorable terms
- Automatic reminders of important dates
Legal Implications of Contract Dates
Contract dates have legal implications for all parties involved. The most significant ones are:
- Enforceability: The effective dates limit when the parties can enforce a contract. The parties’ obligations to each other aren’t binding outside of these dates.
- Statute of limitations: Effective dates limit how long one party has to make a claim against the other for breach of contract.
- Contract termination: If one party misses a renewal deadline, they may not be able to cancel an unsatisfactory contract. If the party doesn’t give notice by the date in the contract, they may end up with products or services they don’t want. They may also have to pay more than they want to for another year.
- Breach of contract: Milestone dates are critical for measuring performance. If one party misses a deadline, they may commit a breach of contract. If that happens, they may have to compensate the other party for damages.
- Businesses that miss contract deadlines can experience expensive consequences and costly delays. Following best practices for contract management can cut these risks and increase profitability.
How jSign Can Help
jSign is an electronic signing solution that can help you manage your contracts. You can sign, send, track, and collect signatures wherever you are — all from one central platform.
jSign works with the tools you already use. This makes it easy to follow contract management standards across teams and departments.
With jSign, all parties involved can sign a contract electronically. Electronic signatures create legally binding contracts. People can sign contracts no matter where they are. And our blockchain technology protects your contracts from unauthorized access. We also provide identity verification to protect you from fake digital signatures.
jSign helps your business work smarter. Sign up today to get started.