What is an executed contract?

Fully executed contract
Philip Reynolds
byPhilip Reynolds
January 25, 2024

An executed contract can mean one of two things. (1) a contract that has been signed by all parties or (2) a contract where all the obligations are fully performed.

Typically in business sales related contracts, executed refers to the contract being fully signed and now legally enforceable. In industries like real estate, executed means fully completed with all obligations in the contract fulfilled by all parties.

Depending on the context in which executed is used, it’s generally possible to tell which is meant. It can be worth seeking clarification if you’re unsure.

Alternatives to the using the phrase executed

If you’d like to completely avoid ambiguity by using another term, we suggest using these alternatives instead:

  • Fully Signed and Effective – Contract has been signed by all parties and is now legally enforceable
  • Fulfilled – All obligations have been met by all parties

Good examples of both definitions

We’ve listed industries and contract types below that typically follow one or the other meaning.

Executed as Fully SignedExecuted as Performed
Technology – Software LicensingConstruction – Completion of work contracts
Sales – Purchase OrdersReal Estate – Closing a property sale
Finance – Loan AgreementsPublishing – Delivery of final script
Legal Services – Retainer AgreementsEvent Planning – Post-Event Settlement
Consulting – Consulting Agreements
Employment Contracts

See Cornell Law’s legal definition of execution and executory