About General Bill of Sale's

A general bills of sale can usually apply to the sale of personal property such as furniture, computers, musical instruments, hand tools, lawn equipment, sporting equipment, household appliances, animals, pets, etc. However, sale of cars, motorcycles, trucks, motor homes, certain watercraft and firearms will require more information than a general bill of sale usually requires.

When these properties are sold, both buyer and seller should always check with their city and state governments concerning legal requirements that might affect the information required on the bill of sale. This is particularly true if selling a gun, vehicle or some watercraft - usually powerboats.

General bills of sale differ from conditional bills of sale that include specifics as to product condition or performance, product delivery, date of payment, payment method or other stipulations to be met before completion of the sale.

A general bill of sale is usually prepared by the seller to present to a purchaser (although the opposite may be advisable for the buyer) transferring ownership of personal property to another person (party). In theory, a simple piece of paper that - in a manner clear to a third party - contains information that identifies the seller(s) and buyer(s) involved and what is being sold, and usually the price paid.

In addition, the signatures of the seller and the buyer are advisable. For Example: "George Johnson sells to Bob Jones, for $X.XX, one Sears rotary mower signed “George Johnson.” This is adequate, particularly between friends or neighbors - and probably unnecessary - but somewhat lacking for many purposes.

A more complete document would verify the transfer of ownership of a specific piece(s) of personal property sold on a specific date and for a certain sum of money or other remuneration. Also stated would be when and where the transaction took place - where payment was made and the property transferred.

For the seller the bill of sale is acknowledgement of the voluntary transfer of property. For the buyer it is a document to show as proof to “whomever it may concern” that the property is rightfully the buyers - not stolen but bought and paid for in full.

However, the assumption that the bill of sale proves the seller’s ownership of the property and their legal right to sell it is incorrect, even if signed by the seller. For the buyer, it does not represent any form of security whatsoever as to legal ownership. If a buyer is unsure of ownership a request to see the owner/seller’s receipt for its purchase is warranted.

A sales agreement, although it is a binding contract and sometimes referred to as a conditional bill of sale, is very different from a bill of sale. A sales agreement merely details all the terms required to execute a future sale. These terms usually include the price, date and point of delivery for completion of the sale.

A sales agreement often contains warranty details and the amount of a down payment or deposit. A general bill of sale then completes the sale when the goods have been delivered and the full price is paid as per the sales agreement.

Perhaps of some special note are the free bill of sale forms used at most public auctions. Since most auctions are advertised in advance and allow the time to ascertain the reputation of the company running it, you can probably feel pretty safe assuming ownership but any statements of authenticity, if necessary, should be included.

In a sense, a promissory is also a conditional bill of sale but with delivery of the property often made before final, complete payment. Any bill of sale including a promissory should is beyond the scope of a general bill of sale and must be drawn up and signed with great care and awareness of possible state usury laws and limits on late fees.

There are quite adequate free printable blank general bill of sale forms available for free or for a minimum charge on many websites. Some allow you to fill modify fields, add additional clauses and fill out the form partially or completely on line for final printout.

At a minimum these forms should include the buyer’s and seller’s names and addresses, price (plus sales tax if included) in the price and the form of payment. Space for a detailed description of the item(s) sold, including serial numbers where applicable, should be included and any warranty (usually ‘as is’) stated. Finally, a place for the signatures of buyer, seller, witnesses (if any) and date signed.