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A general bill of sale will often be used when an item is being sold at the private level, from one citizen to another, without the involvement of a business entity. It is a way of laying out the specifics of the sale, along with the terms, and of creating proof that the sale took place and was agreed upon by both parties. In this sense, it can then be used as a legal document if any issues arise in the future.
Generally speaking, the state governments are not going to force you to use a bill of sale for a small item that is not being sold for a large sum. For example, if you bought a new flat-screen television and you wanted to sell your old projection TV at a garage sale for $50, you would not have to fill one out. You could simply exchange the goods and the money, and then both parties could go on their respective ways.
A bill of sale is used for things that are more of a financial investment. This could include, but is not limited to:
For example, if you want to sell your car, you can get a bill of sale right from the Department of Motor Vehicles. You then fill this out, both you and the seller sign it, you transfer the title into the buyer's name, and the car switches hands. For other items, you may need to get a custom bill of sale that relates specifically to that item, but they are easy to get for cars and trucks because auto sales are so common.
As noted, the specifics are a bit different for each transaction, but it is good to know what is typically included on a bill of sale if you are working with a legal advisor to craft one. You may need some combination of the following:
The specifics that come into play often just have to do with describing the item in more detail. For a car, for example, you may want to put the make, model, color, year of build, and VIN. Starting with the above gives you an excellent base, though, and ensures that major elements are not omitted.
Remember, a bill of sale is a protection for you, no matter which side of the transaction you are on. As a seller, it gives you proof that the item is yours, that you really delivered it, and that the buyer agreed to take it in the condition described. As a buyer, it is proof that you now have ownership rights, and it shows what the seller officially told you that you were buying, in terms of condition and more specific details. For major transactions, a bill of sale should almost always be used.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified business contract lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local business contract attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.