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Intent: So Important, So Unclear


Many theories of law have a common, critical element:  Intent.  In a criminal
setting it is the difference between first-degree murder and third-degree murder.  In a marital dissolution setting it can be the difference between a million dollar asset being marital versus non-marital property.  In a regulatory defense investigation it can be the difference between losing your license (and ability to make a living) and keeping your license.



With such an extremely high value on one word, you would expect the definition of intent to be clear.  And, it is.  Intent is what the parties meant to do or say.  The waters become murky when it comes to proving intent and truly understanding what a person's intentions were.


Intent is proven through the collection of actions, words, and writings.  Of these, actions and words are the most difficult things to prove.  If the same actions and words were viewed by 10 people, there would probably be 16 different interpretations (yes, more interpretations than people because some people will have multiple interpretations of the same actions and words).  Substantially clearer though is the written word--plain language that is not fancy, is to the point, and actually uses the word intent can be enough to win at trial or secure a substantial resolution.



When handling your daily business, keep the word intent in the forefront of your mind.  After that, keep in mind that the written words is the best evidence of the parties' intent, so put into writing the key points of your interactions with clients, vendors, and employees.  It could keep the waters, and the parties' intentions, clear.

The material contained herein is provided for informational purposes only and is not legal advice, nor is it a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney. Each situation is unique, and you should not act or rely on any information contained herein without seeking the advice of an experienced attorney.

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