The two main types of obligations are:

  • Imperfect
  • Perfect

An imperfect obligation does not legally bind parties together and doesn’t have the same legal implications for failure to perform. Instead, the non-performance on an imperfect obligation requires accountability to a higher power. Examples include gratitude and charity. In this definition, an imperfect obligation is simply a moral duty.

Perfect obligations give the right to one party to take legal action against the other party for failure to perform. These obligations can be moral, natural, or civil. A perfect obligation is personal as one party obliges themselves to perform an action, but any executors and heirs will not be bound. For example, one individual might be obligated to pay a set amount of money to another party every month, but that obligation would end when the individual dies.

An obligation is real when the person isn’t liable for the performance, but a real estate property is responsible. For example, if a real estate property owes an easement to another, the property owes but the individual owner does not.