How to Lend Money to Family Members Without Getting Burned

Here are five things to do before you lend money to a family member, friend, or coworker. These tips will help you avoid the pain of loaning money to people you care about.

Be careful about loaning money to family, because money is the root of many family problems. Lending family money can be helpful to them if you protect yourself and them by getting a promissory note. These tips will help you lend money, get it back, and increase the chances your relationship will stay strong.

“Be careful about lending a friend money. It may damage his memory.” ~ unknown. If you’ve already had experience with “memory damage” when it comes to financial loans to friends or family, read 10 Highest Paying Jobs for College Students. Either you or your family member needs to get a job.

Memory hiccups are normal in everyday life, and practically guaranteed when it comes to financial loan agreements and repayments! Here are five ways to give a loan to a family member without running into problems later…

Instead of lending money, you might want to share some money tips with your friend or family member…or even buying them a book like Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness.

If You Lend Money to a Family Member…

Don’t let these tips scare you! Loaning money to people can be a very helpful, supportive thing to do — and often, money loans are repaid. But before you give a loan, make sure you cover your bases.

Ask why they need to borrow the money

Before you loan people money — even if you’re lending money to your adult children — ask what the money is for. This may help you decide whether or not you should lend the money in the first place. Only lend money for vital reasons: paying the rent, buying food, paying bills, taking care of the children’s needs. Never loan money to friends or family members for plastic surgery, vacations, or other luxuries.

If you don’t want to lend money to a family member, read How to Say No When Someone Asks to Borrow Money From You.

Draw up a loan contract

lend money to familyEven just thinking about a contract or signed agreement raises questions about trust, relationships, and suspicions – but you have to get it in writing. A moment of discomfort while everyone agrees on the loan terms and signs the contract is much better than not remembering how much money you loaned to your friends or family members later! You don’t want to get stuck with your own bad debt later.

Put everything in the contract

This tip for loaning money to family members involves being very specific:

  • How much money you’re loaning
  • Whether you’ll be repaid in full or with a payment plan
  • The dates of the loan repayment or payment schedule
  • What will happen if your friend or family member doesn’t pay the loan on time
  • What – if anything – you’ll take in lieu of payment (a car, housekeeping or renovation services, etc)

Before you draw up a contract to lend money to a family member, read Signs It’s Not Smart to Loan Money to Someone You’re Close To.

Remember: email and text messages are legally binding contracts

You can lend money to friends and family members in different countries, and you don’t need their signature on the loan agreement. Make sure you describe the terms of the loan in your email or text message – and make double sure that they respond with an email or text message agreeing to the terms.

Get a witness to sign the contract

If you have a contract signed by both parties, you don’t need a witness…but it can’t hurt! If you should have to sue your friend or family member for the loan repayment, a witness can be valuable in helping you win your case.

If the shoe is on the other foot – you’re asking your family members to lend money to you – read How to Deal With Money Problems.

If you have any thoughts on loans to family members or other people, please comment below…


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28 thoughts on “How to Lend Money to Family Members Without Getting Burned”

  1. I loaned my brother £600 to buy a car in Dec to get to work, both signing a promissory note that he would pay it back in Jan when his student loans came through. This date came and went and he claimed he still hadn’t received his loan. Then about a month later, I asked again for it and he told me to “go f*** myself” and refuses to pay me back now. Is it worth filing small claims? We don’t talk anymore.

  2. Hi Wilma,

    It’s a difficult situation to be in, especially since your aunt has passed away. I’m sorry for your loss, and for the problems you’re now facing.

    After some time has passed, I think it would be appropriate to contact her husband or son and remind them of the loan. You may want to do this in person — very gently and compassionately — and then follow up with a letter a month or so later.

    It might be wise not to expect to get your money back. Anytime we lend money to friends or family members, it’s always smart to assume that you won’t see it again. This is sad, I know, but the truth is that money does create more problems than it solves.

    I wish you all the best, and hope you are repaid quickly and easily.


  3. Hello… I have a question and need an answer desperately. My aunt borrowed money from me and my husband in the amount of $3,000. After she used the funds, unfortunately she passed away of cancer without repayment the loan. She told us that they had a plumbing problem and also behind a mortgage payment. She promised that she will pay us when she goes back to work but she died. Her husband and son knew the situation and promised to pay us after all the papers and documents will be settled but they never did. What shall I do to get the money back or can we still get it back from the husband or the son?

  4. If you want to get a loan, it’s better to ask family members and not online loan scammers. If you can’t trust your family, who can you trust?

  5. I think it is absolutely ridiculous to me mad at someone for not lending you money. My brother once asked me to lend him $600. He and the wife had an error in the checkbook. I told him I didn’t have it. I did, but I was just getting started in life and wasn’t going to drain my bank account for people who don’t have their act together. I also didn’t want to start loaning him money because then he would be calling me every month. My grandmother ended up lending him the money and I kept my bank account in tact. I don’t ask people to borrow money. I take care of myself so I expect the same from family and friends. People do not HAVE to lend you money if they don’t want to. PERIOD!

  6. I borrowed $1000 from my sister 6 years ago, and it took me two years but I paid it back. She made certain to keep track of every penny. Now my older sister asked her for $5000-and she GAVE it to her and told her she DIDN’T HAVE TO PAY IT BACK!!! Now I have bad feelings for both sisters. #1 sister for loaning me $, and #2 sister for not paying back $. Don’t treat different family members differently. If you give someone $-it’s only fair to treat your other family members the same or there will be hard feelings. I’m not going to another family gathering EVER. See? This is what happens.

  7. My 20 year old son borrowed about $2500 from his dad, my ex husband, with a verbal agreement for son to pay back. Son has had financial trouble due to losing job. Father is threatening legal action. Can he sue son for this? Son had every intention of paying back, but life happened. Mind you ex never helped with our kids financially, always behind on child support, and owes me thousands of dollars in his 50% of our children’s medical bills he was ordered to pay in our divorce decree, I haven’t had money to go after him, but he dares do this to our son? Advice please and thank you.

  8. My father recently passed away and left me the executor to his estate. tehre wasn’t alot of money just a house in new jersey that he bought to renovate and rebuild. it is not livable and worth maybe 60k. he had a girlfriend for 6-7 years that he lived with, shes been married 3 times and has a really nice house thanks to them im sure.. im being snobbish but its true. anyway my dad borrowed 20k from her to put toward the downpayment on the purchase of the house; however, she pulled out 63K from the home equity line of credit and had the check made out to stiles law firm for 63k. the house was only 70K. i cant prove this but based on the conversations i had with my dad and the conversations he had with othr family members 20k is all he owed. she doesn’t work and receives 1000 in disability. im sure she took out the 63k and my dad gave her the cash for the remaining balance and she put it in the bank to live on. theres no way he borrowed that kind of money and didnt tell me. i wont make any money off the house if i pay her what she claims i owe not to mention i pay 4300 in taxes on the house a year. i only make 35k how am i supposed to live? i have 4 kids and im a single mother. she obviously didn’t love my dad. please give me some good news or shed some light on my situation if you have any,..

  9. my husband’s friend borrowed money from someone we both all know..they don’t trust our friend, so my husband made a way for his husband lend money under his name for the benifits of his friend..the lender thought that it was my husband’s debt…there’s no written agreement between the lender and my husband at all, only a oral agreement…but our friend could’nt afford to pay the debt and im afraid that the lender will harassh my husband soon…what should we do?? i’m planning to get a legal agreement between my husband and my friend’s husband stating that we are not liable for any debts that he makes under my husnbd’s name…

  10. Help mother in law drives me nuts!!
    Me and my husband got married last 2005.
    And she help us to prepare everything except
    She didn’t tell me it’s a loan my husband know
    About it before we got married but he doesn’t
    Have a guts to tell me.. Now it’s 2012 and she
    Wants her money and they just tell me now I don’t
    Know what to do..she’s asking alot of money 5k and
    My wedding is way too simply and I don’t think
    She spend 5k I even ask her where’s the proof
    That she spend she just tell me she don’t remember
    Where she put it so it’s really suspicious I don’t
    Wanna think of that way but sometimes u can’t
    Help it..beside its alot 5k is a worth of fortune for my
    Family please give me advise please

  11. Hi, I’m living with my aunt for the states medical coverage programs and I’ve been head hunted by the rest of the family because they think I’m after her money and house. They posted on Facebook my medical facts and harassed my mom and sister. I’ve lost three job interviews because of this and had another job get killed too. And the kicker is that I can’t get a job of any sorts where my mother lives. She also put me in a bad spot by putting my name and social security number down for her life insurance policy. She absolutely trusts this one niece of hers and has her for the will enforcer. But this same niece said to her on the phone that she check and has full authority over her life insurance and she doesn’t think this odd at all. What do I do to get out of all this crap without losing the only place I can currently live at? I’m seriously thinking of bringing my grades up, going to college in Canada for four years, and becoming a Canadian citizen.

  12. I wish I followed this advice. We loaned the inlaws 5000 9 months ago. they told us they would pay us back in full in 3 months but we have not seen a penny. Everytime I ask my husband about it he throws a fit. I am thinking we threw this money away. I am pregnant now and our daycare bill will be over 2000 a month when the child comes because we already have a child. I really wish we never loaned them money. I found out they borrowed 10000 from someone else and bought a car off his sister and have not paid them back yet (after the fact). Don’t loan anyone money. You may never get it back.

  13. hi I’m a 21 yr old mother with a five yr old daughter and I live with her father and his family we our comman lawed married…well my question is my grandmother helped me pay off some warrants of about $3,000 sometime ago I did sign a contract that it would be payed off in Dec of this yr I am unable to do that family members such as my mother have told me that my grand mother is going to try and take me to court if I don’t have it paid off…now I have made about 3 or 4 payments of $100 to her.the contract said I believe that she loan me a amount of money and that it had to be paid off by Dec 2011and the payments had to be once a wk of $ at the time I had a very good job as a receptionist and I was getting paid $9 hr every wk…so it was possible to pay it off..well I lost that job the wkend of mothers day.I was out of work for a couple of months…I am now work at a fast food restaurant making minimum wage of $7.25 an hr plus I’m am not saying I don’t want to pay it it is just that money is very tight right now with a couple if bills such as a phone bill,water,electric,groceries,and car insurance one a month…and also my daughters experiences plus me and my husdand also….it is even more difficult with the holidays…so is there in advice you can give me???

  14. I am in my late teens and working part time (around £200 a month). I am to be a student and I am looking for temporary full time work to save up some money. Even though I live at home with my parents I do have to give them a small amount of money for rent and pay for everything except food thats in the house. My parents have a decent earning between them (around£60grand) but always refuse to lend me any money. I’m not talking big money I’m talking about asking for little things prehaps just once a week such as £2 to get a bus. I appreciate that we all have to save in these hard times but sometimes it seems that they just don’t trust me with money. I have always paid them any money I owe and I was wondering if you knew of anyways I could get my parents to trust me with small loans. At the moment I have to rely on internet lenders such as wonga to see me through the month, normally just a small loan like £20 a month but the interest is so high its not doing me any good.

  15. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Dear Monica,

    Wow, have you been through a lot! You are a SURVIVOR. I know you’re in a great deal of physical and emotional pain, but believe me — most people could not have taken what you have.

    I’m not a lawyer, so can’t give you legal advice about how and where to sue your son. Each state has different laws, so you really need to check with a lawyer where you are.

    Part of me wonders if you should just let it go? I’m not advising you to do this, nor do I necessarily think you should. What your son did was very wrong and even despicable…..but do you really think you’ll get your money back, even if you sue?

    Part of ending the stress, emotional distress, and physical pain you’re feeling is forgiving and forgetting. I know you have A LOT to forgive your son for, and you definitely deserve to get everything you lost back, but trying to get it back may cause you more pain and suffering than it’s worth.

    What do you think? Is there a time to lend money to friends or family, and a time to just write it off as a loss?


  16. I have a son who at the age of 40 was found guilty for check fraud that he swears his x-girlfriend did. He makes very good money, over 100k a year. I am a widow, I worked 5 yrs straight without one single weekend off and only Christmas and Thanksgiving day off to get to a point where I could be debt free and preserve my 401k. This happened right after I quit my job with a homebuilder in sales and I was taking classes to do something I “wanted” to do with the rest of my life. That new career for me would not make me rich but would be substantially more than social security and I plan on working at something until I am physically unable to. Well, he was found guilty and got no sympathy from me. You get yourself into something that messy with illegal activities you have either taken part in or know is going on and you pay a price. He went to jail for a few months and during that time, the x girlfriend took everything he owned (We live in different states & I had no idea she could or would do something like this. I also found out she had a drug problem so was without ethics from that or just that’s who she is. I don’t know her & wouldn’t know her if she was standing on my front porch). The day my son was released, I had received a letter from him everyday stating his deep beliefs in God, how he learned the importance of good decisions and keeping away from people with a value system that allowed things like this in one’s life, blah blah. I bought it hook, line and sinker. He convinced me to buy him a car. (The girlfriend has his car and had changed license tags & moved with all his things and the car.) REALLY, THIS IS A TRUE STORY. The crystal, china, family heirlooms, flat screen tv’s, washer/dryer, refrigerator, the entire home was empty, even his socks and underwear. Well I got the girlfriend in jail……..FINALLY. The final bill for everything he got from me from his legal problem beginnings 12/2006 through 01/2007 was close to $65,000. His employer kept his job for him since he’s commission sales and does well so the COMPANY makes considerably more money keeping him. So, within a month of being released from his short term punishment, he was back earning money again. The only way he could have done this is for someone to “loan him the money” to buy clothes, get an apt. with furniture, set him up with dishes, a car, cell phone, pay his fines, etc. I had a legal binding contract drawn up with every cent he owed me signed by me, by him, notarized, witnessed by 2 people besides the notary and I had him mail it to me via certified mail. So, it was mailed by him to me. He’s paid me back about $11,000 in almost 3 years and it’s been a nightmare of epic proportions & the only thing that’s kept him from not paying me one cent is knowing he’ll get nothing from me when I die and he has a lot to lose. But, MY LIFE HAS BEEN A LIVING HELL, I’VE WITHDRAWN INTO MY OWN WORLD, I CAN’T FUNCTION NORMALLY, THE WAY I LOANED HIM THE MONEY FROM A 401K I NOW OWE TAXES PENALTIES, AND INTEREST AND MY LIFE HAS BEEN COMPLETELY DESTROYED. Hurricane Ike hit my home in 09/08 & my insurance company of 16 years paid only $16,000 of a $97000 claim stating the unpaid damages were caused by a chemical coming into my home from wind and rain that came from a new construction site behind my home & they don’t cover that and there were so many thousands of claims in the courts for things like this, it never even made it to court by the cut off date (long story and beside the point anyway).
    What I need help with is the following: He lives in Arizona and I live in Texas.

    Can I sue him in TX and can I sue him for punitive damages and the penalties and interest the IRS has added to my tax bill. I can’t file for social security because I haven’t filed my taxes since this incident in 2008.

    I had to move from my home when hurricane Ike hit and that’s another story in itself regarding my insurance company of 16 years but between my son’s debt and a natural disaster that cost me about $80000 out of pocket, I am broke and in a state of frozen depression with major illness.

    I wake up each day alone, unable to function, knowing full well I need help and I can’t move forward. I am in such severe chronic pain there are days I have to stay in bed due to arthritis in my hands and swelling so severe and painful I just wish it would all end.

    I am a successful businesswoman who has always been stylish, active full of life and adventure, lead my life with a moral compass that points north and when it falters some, I make right my wrongs.

    All the twists and turns of manipulation and lies by my son with over 1,000 emails alone from me to him responding to his promises to send money then not following through and the chaos, I know I’m in crazy land.

    When I DO RARELY do something normal like dinner or a show, I look like I stepped off a magazine cover so “NOBODY” but I know what’s going on inside my head and my home.

    When I do talk to a lawyer, they think I’m nuts I guess because that’s how I feel. It’s like they think they are getting an old lady who doesn’t have full brain power, dementia already set in. Just allowing this to happen is enough for anyone to think that but my son was great in his scamming me. I’ve been on to his lack of a moral compass for years but this time he was smooth enough to even fool me into believing that ending up in jail a few months could be enough to actually change somebody to see the light and the error of their ways. I am such a fool and I am not allowing him to get away with this. I know he cares only about himself and after this happened to me, I found out he’d stolen his dad’s identity (we were divorced when he was 5 but remained friends) and in order to pay back what he’d charged up in his dad’s name, he actually was the one who committed the check fraud. What I also know that my son doesn’t know that I know is that he was charged with fraud of about $2,000 and the actual total fraud had to have been close to what he charged up in his dad’s name because he paid it back really fast and couldn’t have earned that much money that fast. I don’t know the details of his case since he’s an adult and I didn’t really want to know I was so upset but putting two and two together after finding out about his father’s identity theft, this has to be the case & his dad is the one who told me about this.

    Anyway, do I have to have a lawyer or can I just go to the District Attorney’s office and which state does this have to happen in? Anybody that can help with known facts to help me is very appreciated. Thanks, Monica
    ps. My son and I will “never” have a relationship unless he truly one day finds God and changes and I’m not waiting for this. He takes trips, goes to resorts at about $1,000 a weekend and I’m over here dying inside and now it’s taking a physical toll on me that I feel is spiraling out of control and my doctors tell me “it’s stress”, you’ve got to end this stress somehow……………Well, the IRS & social security I paid my entire life and my husband’s social security I am due don’t think the same way my doctors do so I’ve just buried my head in the sand and suddenly realized this is going on 5 yrs. Help……….Please………….

  17. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Paul ~ it sounds like you’ve set your boundaries with your friend, and that’s great. But it’s hard to have a friend who isn’t financially responsible, who you don’t entirely trust. I think it’s always best not to lend money to friends or family members, unless you don’t want it back. Or unless you’re willing to take them to court to get repaid!

    Gene ~ I wrote this article for you:

    When Your Stepson Won’t Repay the Money He Borrowed

    I think your wife needs to read the article, too.

    I hope it helps, and welcome your thoughts there or here.


  18. Help! I have a step son who is 34 years old. Jason grew up without a dad. I’m married to his mom who is the sweetest person. Jason does not have a good grasp on handling money. I loaned him $3500 four years ago to get his car engine rebuilt (import car I might add). In 4 years, he has paid me back $500. Meanwhile, he has traded for a new car and not paid anything. He is divorced and goes to movies & dinner 3-4 times a week. I think that my wife loaned him $5,000 for attorney fees for a DUI last spring but I haven’t quite got the whole story out of her. And now he bought $56.00 dollar courside tickets for him and his girlfriend to a basketball game. Meantime, I’m busting my butt trying to make the mortgage and driving an old truck with 300,000 miles on it. I want him to pay me back the money and get more responsible, start saving!! HELP!!

  19. I sensitive re: mixing money and friends or family, it can change the relationship, a debt by definition is a burden, and a truly cut and dried, no emotions involved “just business” scenario I think is difficult in reality w/close friends or relatives.A few years ago a good friend of mine asked to “borrow” a good chunk of money so he could get caught up on his mortgage. I knew he bought more house than he could afford and I’d seen him handle money poorly, but he’s a good friend none the less. I also intuitively knew if i lent him money it’d be a burden on me and on him and it would change the relationship, who wants to hang out w/their debtors? So i just gave him what I felt comfortable giving, several hundred instead of several thousand. Then about a year later I did it one more time. It did, for a time, change the relationship though, every time he’d call I’d think he was calling for money and for a time I lost respect for the guy. Eventually though, after I refused to give anymore and i didn’t offer any assistance when he’d complain about money problems, he got the message. A few years have gone by and we’re still friends, he’s still got chronic money problems, but that’s his problem not mine.

  20. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    I have to add that not lending money to friends or family members doesn’t mean you’re being a “bad” friend — even if you have the money to lend!

    Sometimes you need to be a good friend by letting your friends deal with the consequences of their actions. For instance, if your sister is constantly in debt and always borrowing money to pay off debt, then lending her money all the time may not be helpful to her. Sometimes giving too much is destructive to people.

  21. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks for your thoughts, Emma! I agree that helping friends out of difficult situations is exactly what friends are for.

    The best way too lend money to friends or family members is with a solid contractual agreement that spells out the repayment details. You can be BFF, and not pay back the money, which leads to all sorts of problems.

  22. People who do not lend money to friends are selfish period if it is short term and the friend is responsible. What kind of a selfish world do we live in where people will not help a friend and also where friends don’t pay back loans. All this talk about not loaning to fiend shows lack of integrity and trust in the human relationship. If you don’t have money to loan don’t do it . If you say not it is okay but if you can’t rely on a friend in a difficult situation who can you rely on. Yes being there for a fiend in need is part of real friendship and if the person needs money and you have no bad history of loaning to that person there is nothing wrong with doing it.

  23. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Hi Don,

    I’m sorry to hear that your friendship didn’t stand up to your money difficulties! It’s such a difficult decision to make — whether or not to land money to friends or family members.

    Your friend made the decision that he thought was best. I hope you can accept that, and not think less of him as a friend. I’m not saying he did the right thing by not lending you money, but I know that many friendships are ruined because of money. He probably didn’t want to risk this happening to yours.

    And, he may not have the money to loan! $2,000 is alot of cash to have on hand.

    Anyway, I’m glad you commented, and I hope you found a way to make your mortgage payment!


  24. Hey, Laurie

    I have to disagree here. I had the exact same thing happen, but I was going to miss a mortgage payment. I asked a friend of 20 years to borrow under $2,000 — although he didn’t say no, he was very doubtful, and said he didn’t think it was a good idea to lend a friend money. Give me a break! That kind of action is not the selflessness I expect from myself and I think it’s fair to expect from a true friend. I am talking about a rare gem of a friend that really IS there for you. Saving someone’s mortgage vs. trying to preserve a friendship with selfishness…hmmmmmm

  25. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Hi Karl,

    I’m sorry your friend refused to lend you the money, and I believe you’d lend it to him if he asked!

    However, part of friendship is not just asking for favors…it’s accepting our friends’ response when we ask for help. If your friend doesn’t feel like he can loan you money without straining your friendship, then you need to respect that.

    I know it took alot of courage for you to ask to borrow the money, and I wish he could’ve helped. But, you can’t expect people to behave the way YOU would behave…because we all do what we think is right.

    You said you’re trying not to take it personally, and I’m glad. And once you figure out your financial problems, this may not seem like such a big deal…and your feelings towards your friend will return back to normal.

    I hope this helps, and that your money problems are resolved soon.


  26. How should I feel when I asked a good friend for a very short term loan for only 14 days which would help me avoid over $1,000.00 in penalties and interest on a unexpected tax bill? I will have the money coming for sure to give back in 14 days which was confirmed. The person has more then 3 times what I needed sitting in a liquid account making very little interest which I offered to pay them much more interest for the 14 days. They said it’s not a matter of trust but they just don’t want to do it. I’m struggling wondering if they would of or if they have ever loaned to other friends. I feel better thinking they haven’t. Response was, no I don’t want to put that kind of strain on our friendship. I’m thinking it has strained the relationship by not loaning me. I wish I would have never asked. I just thought it was not much to ask especially since it was not asking for long term loan but 14 days. I’m trying not to take it personal but its hard. I know if the table where turned I am sure I would have loaned them the money.

  27. I asked lawyer and Dave Ramsey certified counselor Michael Moebes about suing friends or family members when you loan them money, but they don’t repay it.

    Here’s what he said:

    “It’s hard for me to recommend that anyone loan friends or family money, especially if there might be a possible lawsuit that results! Sure, you can sue them, and I always think it’s a good idea to have a written contract, even when a verbal one is sufficient (the nature of the agreement, ie, duration, whether it’s for goods v. services, dollar amount at stake, etc. will determine whether it has to be in writing).

    The problem with being in debt to folks you know and see regularly is that you won’t be able to very well enjoy the money you have. If your friend or family lives nearby, you’ll feel like you have to conceal any expenditures you make (eating out, trips, new clothes, hired help in the yard, etc.) if you owe them money and are having trouble paying. Is that an enviable position? No. It sucks. Feeling guilty about paying for basic needs is never a good feeling.

    Even if your family lives out of town, don’t you think Thanksgiving turkey is going to taste a little worse if you know you owe the cook a few thousand dollars? Won’t it strain relations with your in-laws?

    If you have to sue, blame someone else. Say your wife is making you pursue the money, your landlord, your kids, your boss. Don’t say, “I’m pissed off at you for spending all your coin at the dog track when you owe me money. See you in court!” It won’t be good.”

    There you have it — it’s best not to lend money to friends or family members…but if you do, make sure you have a written, signed agreement!