Browse By Letter

Accord: An agreement by two or more parties to settle their differences or claims.

Accredited: Recognized as worthy and approved. An accredited law school is one approved by the licensing agencies of the various states.

Acquainted: Having knowledge of; familiar with.

Acquire: To buy or gain possession of property.

Acquisition: Something that one has purchased, been given as a gift, or has inherited.

Acquit: To declare not guilty; to set free.

Acquittance: A declaration that nothing is owed.

Adjournment: To conclude a meeting until another time.

Adjudge: To pass upon; to sentence; to render judgment.

Advance payment: A payment made before it is due; a payment made early in anticipation of a future debt.

Adverse interest: Interest that displaces one's own interest, partially or completely.

Adversely: Negatively affecting one's interest, right or position.

Advocate: An attorney; one who gives legal advice and pleads for a client in a lawsuit.

Affair: A lawsuit; a matter. Also, a love relationship, usually nonmarital.

Affiant: One who makes an affidavit; a deponent.

Affiants: One who makes an affidavit; a deponent.

Affidavit: A written statement of facts, sworn to and signed by a deponent before a notary public or some other authority having the power to witness an oath.

Affinity: The ties and relationship between a person and the blood relations of his or her spouse. (A judge is disqualified from a case if he is in any way related to, or has any affinity to, any one of the litigants.)

Affirm: To confirm or ratify; a Court Of Appeals affirms or disaffirms a decision of a lower court.

Affix: To attach to; to sign; to attach one's signature.

Alimony: The monetary support that one is entitled to from a spouse after a separation or divorce. The Court usually fixes the amount of such alimony.

Allegation: The contention of a party in a lawsuit, including what he intends to prove.

Alleged: Claimed; charged.

Allocate: To allot; to ration; to assign.

Alternate beneficiaries: Persons who are to receive a gift because the first choice (primary beneficiary) is dead.

Amortization: The paying off of an indebtedness through regular installments. (A mortgage on property is amortized over a period of years through regular payments.)

Ancestor: A person from whom one is descended; a progenitor. (Specifically, a parent, grandparent, great-grandparent, etc.)

Ancillary administration: A proceeding in a locality where a deceased person owned property, but which is a different locality from the one in which the estate is being administered.

Annex: To join; to attach.

Annulled: Dissolved or voided.

Annulment: The act of canceling something; making it void. An annulment of marriage is a legal decision that the marriage never existed. (An annulment is not a divorce.)

Appeal: The request for a review by a higher court of a verdict or decision made by a lower court.

Appellate court: A court with the authority to review the handling and decision of a case tried in a lower court.

Appraisal: An evaluation of the worth of property. When ordered by a court, such estimation of value may be carried out by one or more reputable, qualified, disinterested parties.

Arbitration: The submission by two contesting parties of their disagreement to an impartial arbitrator, usually agreeing that his ruling in the dispute will be binding and final.

Arbitrator: A disinterested person, chosen by the parties in a dispute, who will hear the details of the dispute and who will render a decision as to how the dispute shall be settled.

Armed force: A posse; a group of armed civilians authorized by the official peace officers of the community to aid in the capture of criminals and the prevention of crime.

Arrest: The taking of a person into custody by an officer of the law. To deny an individual his personal liberty by placing him under the jurisdiction of the law.

Articles of Incorporation: The document by which a corporation is formed and organized under the corporation laws of the state. (Each state has its own laws of incorporation.)

Articles of Organization: Document filed with a state's Secretary of State, used to form a limited liability company. Sometimes referred to as a "Certificate of Organization" or "Certificate of Formation", depending on state law.

Ascertain: To find out; to make certain, without doubt.

Assert: To declare; to maintain; to charge as true.

Associate: An attorney practicing with another attorney, or with a firm of attorneys, but not as a partner or member of the firm.

Attest: To state to be true; to bear witness to.

Attorney general: The chief law officer of a state or of a nation.

Attorney-in-fact: An individual who is authorized by a written document to act for another. The individual need not be an attorney and the written document is often called a Power of Attorney.

Auction: A sale, open to the public, of items and property sold to the highest bidder.

Authority: 1. The power and right to do a certain act. 2. A person who has been given certain powers and rights.

Autopsy: Necropsy. The examination of a dead body by a pathologist for the purpose of finding the cause of death. Also known as a post-mortem examination.

Backup withholding: The IRS requires backup withholding for certain taxpayers, usually because of their past failure to pay taxes. Persons making certain payments to such taxpayers must withhold and pay to the IRS 31% of such payments.

Bad faith: Conduct in which there is a design of ill-will or an ulterior motive to commit deceit or fraud.

Bear interest: When making a loan, the lender usually asks that the money be augmented by the payment of interest. Thus, a loan of $1,000 may bear interest of six percent per annum, or sixty dollars per year.

Bearer: The person who has a document in his possession and who will receive any payment that is due on said document. As an example, when a check or note is payable to bearer, anyone who presents the check or note will receive the payment therefrom.

Bequest: A gift given in a will.

Bodily injury: Any harm coming to the body as the result of external force. Such injury may come from a blow or it may come from malpractice of a physician, or as the result of rape or attempted rape.

Bona fide: True; honest; acting in good faith.

Bovine: A Cow.

Breach: Failure to perform an obligation; a violation of the terms of an agreement.

Bring suit: The initiation of legal proceedings; to start an action.

Buy-out provision: A provision in a lease which allows the tenant to purchase the property being leased.

By virtue of: By authority of; because of. (Payments made to a public official by virtue of his rightful function, according to law.)

Bylaws: Rules and regulations adopted by corporations, associations, benefit societies, etcetera, to govern their ongoing activities. Such bylaws must be compatible with the charters of the various organizations and must be in conformity with their aims and goals.

Capital gains: Profits from the sale of capital assets in excess of costs and values. Such gains are subject to special taxation, as specified by tax laws.

Capital investment: Moneys spent to increase the worth of an asset.

Capitalize: To estimate the value of a stock; to authorize the issuance of a certain number of stocks and bonds in the charter of a corporation; to supply with capital.

Cargo: The goods and merchandise carried by a merchant ship.

Cash surrender value: The value of an insurance policy at any specific time before the policy is due. This amount is calculated according to established rules. The insured who is canceling his insurance is entitled to a certain amount of money, determined by how much premium he has paid in during the life of the policy.

Cash value: The amount for which something can be sold in a free market. Also known as market value, fair market value, clear market value.

Certified check: The signing of a check by a bank officer showing that the depositor has adequate funds to cover the amount of the check.

Certified copy: A copy of a document signifying that it is a true copy. Such copy is certified by the officer to whose custody the original document is entrusted.

Chambers: The private office of a judge.

Change of beneficiary: Switching a bequest or beneficial interest from one person to another.

Charitable trust: A trust whose assets and income shall benefit the general public, or a significant segment of the public.

Charter: An act of a legislature creating a corporation and setting forth its franchise; also, a document defining the organization of a corporation.

Choate: Complete; justifiable against other claims; the opposite of inchoate.

Chose: A case of action; chattel or personal property; a personal right; a chose in action.

Civil liability: A sum of money assessed against a defendant. It may be single, double, or treble the original amount of the actual damages.

Clear and convincing proof: Proof beyond a reasonable doubt; evidence that has convinced an unbiased jury, composed of competent, reasonable jurors.

Codicil: An addition or supplement to a will. It may also delete or modify various provisions of a will. (Codicils must be witnessed and signed in the same manner as the original will.)

Codicils: An addition or supplement to a will. It may also delete or modify various provisions of a will. (Codicils must be witnessed and signed in the same manner as the original will.)

Co-executor: One of two or more people designated to administer someone's estate; joint executor.

Collateral: Property pledged to a creditor to secure a debt.

Columbarium: A structure, often adorned with stained glass or other decorations, containing chambers to hold urns for cremated remains.

Command: An order, usually implying that some action must be taken, as directed.

Commingle: To put together into one fund moneys from several different sources.

Commissioner of Oaths: A public official who is authorized to witness signatures on documents, to administer oaths, and to perform other tasks, such as attesting to the genuineness of various papers.

Concur: To agree; to happen at the same time.

Condemn: To judge guilty; to declare a building unfit for occupancy and to therefore order its destruction; to pass judgment upon someone convicted of a crime.

Conformity: Resemblance; agreement; correspondence in form or use.

Congress: 1. In America, Congress is composed of the two legislative bodies, the Senate and the House of Representatives. 2. In international law, a Congress is an assembly of representatives from different countries who meet to consider matters for their common good.

Consent: To voluntarily agree; to permit or approve.

Consequential damages: Loss or injury that results indirectly. As an example, a store owner who has a fire loses not only the goods and fixtures that have been burned, but he loses what he would have earned had there been no fire and he could have continued to sell his merchandise.

Conservator: An individual appointed by a court to have authority over anotherÃ?s affairs. Depending on the state, a conservator may have authority over property, business, or personal matters.

Consign: Delivery of goods from the owner to another party ("consignee") to be sold by the consignee for the benefit of the owner.

Consignment: Delivery of goods from the owner to another party ("consignee") to be sold by the consignee for the benefit of the owner.

Construe: To interpret; to ascertain the meaning of, especially the language of a document.

Construed: To interpret; to ascertain the meaning of, especially the language of a document.

Contemporaneous: Taking place at the same time as another occurrence.

Context: Those parts of a spoken or written passage that precede or follow a specific word, phrase, or sentence. Taking words out of context often alters the meaning of the entire passage or text.

Contingency: The possibility of happening; an event that may occur.

Contributory: In terms of a pension plan, a plan to which both the employer and the employee make contributions.

Controversy: A suit or civil action; an issue appropriate for determination in a court of law. Controversies take place between plaintiffs and defendants.

Corporate seal: An emblem or symbol of a corporation, often embossed on a corporation's stock or bond certificates, or on a contract of the corporation.

Co-Signer: Someone who signs a document along with another person or persons, often assuming obligations to be shared with the other signers.

Co-Trustee: One of two or more people who jointly hold, manage and distribute property for the benefit of another under a trust; joint trustee.

Counsel: A lawyer; an attorney; a counselor. To counsel means to advise.

Covenant: A written agreement, signed and notarized, between two or more people, in which one party or parties promises to perform certain acts and the other party or parties agree to recompense him or them for such performance. In other words, a covenant is a binding contract between two or more people. Suits for violation of a covenant are ex contractu, arising out of a written contract.

Credit bureau: A business that collects and sells information regarding the payment history and creditworthiness of persons and organizations.

Credit report: A summary of a personÃ?s past performance and current ability to pay debts, usually prepared by a credit bureau.

Custodian: An individual employed to safeguard and watch over somebody's property.

Custody: The care and control of property, or of a person or persons. Custody does not necessarily imply ownership. A child may be given over to the custody of a parent or guardian; a prisoner may be held in custody by being placed in jail.

Customarily: According to the usual order or procedure; in accordance with the industry norm.

Decedent: A deceased person.

Declarant: The person who makes a statement, usually written, such as a Living Will.

Decree: The decision of a court of equity. A judgment is a decision of a court of law.

Deductible: The portion of a loss that an insured must pay before payment is made by an insurance company.

Deed: A written document transferring the ownership of land, and the buildings thereon, to another person or persons.

Deem: To determine; to consider; to judge.

Delinquent: An individual who does not carry out that which is expected of him or that which he has promised to do; a debt that is due and has not been paid; neglectful of duty.

Demise: A deed; a lease; a transfer of property; a conveyance or creation of an estate to someone else for life. In medical jurisprudence, demise is a death.

Denial: A defense against a charge; a contradiction; a traverse. (When a defendant answers a plaintiff's charges, he or she often denies them. Even if it is stated that the defendant has insufficient information to respond to a complaint, this will constitute a denial.)

Deny: To issue a denial; to contradict; to protest.

Depose: To make a statement under oath.

Descendant: A child, grandchild, great-grandchild, and so forth, down through the generations.

Descent: Inheritance from one's parents, grandparents, etcetera.

Designate: To choose or select a person to serve in a specified role or capacity.

Designee: The chosen recipient of certain rights or obligations from another person.

Device: A deceit or plan to trick. A gambling device may be a machine specially designed to cheat those who gamble.

Devise: A gift originating from a clause in a will, usually a gift of real estate. However, a devise may refer to a gift of personal property.

Disclaim: To give up a legal claim.

Disclaimer: The refusal of a beneficiary to accept an inheritance.

Discrepancy: An inconsistency between the contentions of a party to a suit and the actual facts; a variance; a lack of conformity.

Disposition: The final determination of a matter, arrangement. Method of handling the body of a deceased person, for example by cremation or burial.

District court: A court of the federal government or of a state, having jurisdiction over a particular geographic area. Such area may be a whole state, several states, or only part of a state, depending upon the size of its population.

Divulge: To disclose information previously unknown.

Doctrine: A belief; a tenet; a government policy, such as the Doctrine that all people are created equal.

Donee: Someone who receives a gift; a person who is granted with a power of appointment.

Donor: The giver; one who makes a gift or sets up a trust. In medical jurisprudence, one who gives blood or an organ to a recipient.

Dower: The right that a widow has to her dead husband's property. Dower rights vary from province to province in our country, as each province has its own laws on the subject.

Due care: The type of care that a sensible person exercises in a situation requiring carefulness. A good example would be when a person, prior to taking a long automobile trip, has his car checked out thoroughly before embarking upon the trip.

Duly: Suitably; according to legal requirements; properly executed; according to law.

Duress: Undue pressure by one person against another in order to get him to do something he does not want to do. This pressure might take the form of threats of bodily harm, or of exposure of information that the threatened person wants to keep secret, etcetera.

Dwelling: A house or building in which people live.

Easement: The right of a non-owner to use land. Such a non-owner may be a next-door neighbor, the general public, or the government. An easement would be the right of an owner of property, who has no land on the street, to use another individual's property to reach the street. Easements must be negotiated and voluntarily agreed to by the owners of property.

Encroachment: Extending one's property onto that of another; a trespass, such as building a fence that intrudes upon or obstructs a public highway.

Encumber: To burden property with debt, such as to mortgage or otherwise grant a security interest in property to another.

Encumbrance: A liability that lowers the value of a piece of property, such as a lien or a mortgage.

Enumerated: Mentioned specifically; specified.

Enure: Come into operation; take effect

Enurement: To operate or to take effect upon something.

Equitable: Fair; just; according to the principles of justice. An equitable settlement of a dispute is fair to both sides.

Eviction: The act of getting one to leave lands or quarters he has been occupying, such an act being authorized by a court of law.

Exclusion: Shutting out; denying participation. Allowing or including only strictly-defined members of a group or category, with the implication that those not specifically named are not included.

Exonerated: Absolved of a charge; declared not responsible; not guilty; released from liability; exculpated.

Expert witness: A witness with special knowledge in a particular sphere, such as a scientist, an engineer, etcetera. Such a witness gives expert testimony.

Express warranty: 1. A warranty that is bound by the explicit statements of the seller. 2. A statement by an insured person, expressed in the insurance policy, that certain facts are true.

Facsimile: An exact copy.

Fair market value: The price that a willing buyer and a willing seller would agree to.

False pretenses: A premeditated, calculated, thought-out misrepresentation of fact or situation, frequently entered into to defraud someone of property or money.

Fed: Abbreviation for the Federal Reserve System, the central United States Bank that controls the nation's monetary supply (usually referred to as the Fed).

Fictitious: Pretended; false; imaginary; counterfeit; not genuine.

Fiduciary: A person or organization who is given authority and responsibility over assets not owned by that fiduciary, such as an executor or personal representative in an estate, a trustee for a trust, or a conservator in a conservatorship.

Fiscal: An adjective referring to financial matters in general. (Fiscal affairs are financial affairs.)

Fiscal Year: A repeating twelve-month period chosen by a business for accounting purposes. A fiscal year can, but need not, end on December 31—the "calendar year."

For value received: An expression denoting that a bill has been paid, acknowledging having received full value.

Force majeure: In contracts, a clause excusing non-performance of the contract if non-performance is due to unforeseen events beyond the control of the parties, such as acts of God.

Foreign trade: Import and export trade between countries.

Forfeit: To lose the right to do something, especially because of defaulting an obligation or because of an offense.

Forfeited: To lose the right to do something, especially because of defaulting an obligation or because of an offense.

Fraudulent: In bad faith; dishonest.

Free and clear: A "clean" title; a title to property that is free of liens or other possible hindrances.

Free on Board: The term, or its abbreviation "f.o.b.", is used in a quotation or in a contract between a seller and a buyer of goods to be delivered. The term, which is usually followed by a defined location—often either the sellerÃ?s or the buyerÃ?s place of business, means that the seller is responsible for delivering the goods to that defined location and assuming the risk of loss until then.

Fringe benefits: Benefits received by employees in addition to their wages. Health insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, and pension benefits are all classified as fringe benefits.

Full disclosure: The telling of all that one knows, not hiding or concealing anything that might be pertinent to the case.

Garnishment: A legal proceeding in which a creditor seeks to obtain payment from a debtor out of money, salary, or property of the debtor. The procedure takes place after a judgment against the debtor has already been handed down.

General instruction: An instruction by a judge to a jury, setting down the salient points in the case that must be considered before bringing in a verdict. In this instruction, the judge will state that the merits of the case must be decided only on the evidence. The judge will also state the limitations of the issues to be decided.

General partners: Owners of a partnership who are responsible for the management of the partnership, receive a share of the partnership's profits and losses, and who are personally liable for the actions of the other partners and the debts of the business.

General partnership: An unincorporated business owned by more than one person, where all of the partners share equally in the management, profits and losses.

General Power of Attorney: A document in which a person authorizes another person or entity to act on his or her behalf in a variety of situations.

Gift tax: A tax on the transfer of property from one living person to another. The tax is levied on the transfer, not on the property transferred.

Give notice: To inform someone that a legal suit is about to take place. Such notice is usually served legally, although it may be informal notification.

Grant: 1. A transfer of property by deed. 2. To give; to bestow. 3. A gift.

Grantee: The recipient of property from a grantor. For example, using a Quitclaim Deed, a grantor can transfer property ownership to a grantee.

Grantor: A person who sets up, and transfers property to, a trust.

Gross negligence: 1. Failure to act where duty demands that one act. 2. Acting in such a manner that one ignores the safety of others. 3. Willful neglect.

Gross Revenue: Total receipts of a business.

Guardian: A person who has been given the legal right and duty to take care of another individual and/or that individual's property. Guardianships are granted when a person does not have certain legal rights, such as a minor, to take care of himself and his affairs, or a mentally ill or debilitated person not being capable of managing himself and his affairs.

Heir: A person who inherits money or property, or who will naturally inherit property if someone dies without making a will.

Heirs-at-law: People who inherit money or property, or who will naturally inherit property if someone dies without making a will.

Held in trust: Property held by someone other than the owner, such as a trustee or an agent. Such trustee or agent is responsible to the owner and, for a fee, may manage the property and turn over to him any moneys earned by the property.

Herein: An adverb referring to a certain phrase, sentence, clause, paragraph, or page in a document.

Hoc: This (Latin).

Hold harmless: An agreement in which one party agrees to protect the other party from liability for any damage that may occur in connection with a particular transaction, such as a lease.

Homestead: The house and land upon which a person or family makes their permanent residence. A personÃ?s homestead is generally exempt from debt collection (except by the lender who financed the homestead). The extent and definition of the homestead exemption varies by state.

Homicide: Murder; the killing of a human being by another human being. There are many types of homicide.

Honorable: A vague title of respect, given to various public officials, judges, etcetera, as the honorable justice.

House of Representatives: Legislative body of the United States government to which members are elected every two years from various congressional districts, such districts being determined by population. Various states also have legislative bodies known as houses of representatives.

Imperative: Commanding; something that must be done; mandatory.

Impose: To tax; to levy; to place a burden upon someone, as in imposing a heavy fine.

Imprison: To place a person in jail; to restrain a person's liberty, against his will.

In lieu of: Instead of.

In person: An individual who acts as his own attorney in a case is said to appear in person.

In re: In the matter of; concerning (Latin).

In trust: The status of property given over and entrusted to someone to guard and take care of. Money or property of an estate is held in custody, or in trust, by a trustee until it is turned over to an heir.

In witness whereof: An expression making it clear that someone signing a legal document is signing as a witness.

Incapacitated: Unable to perform one's usual functions or duties, due to a physical or mental disability.

Inception: The beginning; the commencement, as the start of an agreement or contract.

Inchoate: Unfinished; incomplete, as an agreement that has not been put into final form. Inchoate lien. A lien that has not yet been put into effect, as a tax lien prior to the time when a tax assessment has been made.

Inchoate interest: Ownership of an unfinished and/or undetermined claim or agreement.

Incompetent: Incapable; inefficient; lacking the qualities necessary to discharge one's obligations and duties.

Indemnification: An agreement to financially protect or reimburse a person if the protected person suffers loss arising out of defined circumstances.

Indemnify: To financially protect or reimburse a person if the protected person suffers loss arising out of defined circumstances.

Indemnity: Insurance against a possible loss; security with compensation for damages or loss.

Industriously: Hard working; to be diligent about a task.

Ineligible: Not qualified; legally disqualified from holding a public office or trust.

Inevitable accident: An accident that is unavoidable, such as an accident due to an act of god (floods, lightning, earthquakes, tornadoes, etcetera); an accident that could not have been prevented no matter what precautions one had taken.

Informed consent: Assent given only after all the facts have been fully explained. Before undergoing surgery a patient should have all the possibilities explained to him/her. Then, informed consent can be given, or withheld.

Infringement of trademark: Deceiving the public by copying, or devising an almost identical copy of, a trademark.

Inscription: 1. The registration or recording of a deed, a mortgage, or other document in a public record or registry. 2. A writing on a substance of permanency such as stone or metal.

Insured: The person who is entitled to the protection under an insurance policy.

Intestate: Dying without leaving a valid will.

Inure: 1. To become effective; to come to one's benefit. 2. To become accustomed to.

Irrevocable: Unable to be canceled or nullified.

Joinder: Joining another person in a common suit; the acceptance by a party to an action of an issue tendered (formally presented).

Judgment creditor: A person who has won his case against a debtor but who has not yet collected his debt.

Judgment debtor: A person who has lost his case to a creditor but has not yet paid his debt.

Judicial: Anything related to the administration of justice; anything that has to do with a court of justice.

Jurisdiction: The power and right to administer justice; the geographic area in which a judge or a court has the right to try and decide a case.

Jury: A specified number of men and/or women who are chosen and sworn to look into matters of fact and, therefore, to determine and render a decision upon the evidence presented to them. Juries may be of different sizes in various jurisdictions and in various categories. A grand jury may have anywhere from 12 to 24 jurors.

Knowingly: In general, a person acts knowingly when they are reasonably certain a result will come from a specific action.

Last will and testament: The will that is valid and in force at the time of death.

Legal right: Any privilege or right which, if challenged, would be supported in court.

Legatee: The recipient of a legacy; an individual who inherits something.

Lemon law: A law enacted to protect purchasers of new and/or used automobiles when the vehicle requires frequent repairs and does not operate properly. The purchaser is usually given the right to a refund if certain conditions are met.

Lessee: Someone who leases or rents something, such as an apartment or an automobile.

Lessor: The person who grants a lease to a lessee.

Levy: 1. A tax; an assessment. 2. To tax; to assess; to collect upon; to impose, such as a fine.

Licensee: One who is granted a license.

Licensor: Someone who grants a license.

Lien: A claim on another's property.

Lieu: Instead of (French).

Line of credit: The maximum amount of credit a bank or businessman will give to a customer.

Liquidated: Paid, settled; wound up, as a company that has gone out of business.

Liquidation: The conversion of an asset into cash.

Litigation: A lawsuit; a legal action; a suit.

Living trust: A trust that is in effect while the maker of the trust is still alive, as opposed to a trust set up by a will. Also known as an inter vivos trust.

Living Will: A document which authorizes a person's healthcare provider to withdraw or withhold life-sustaining procedures if the person has a terminal condition with no reasonable hope of survival.

Local law: Law whose application is limited to certain restricted areas, such as municipal ordinances.

Lockout: An employer's dismissal of employees because of a labor dispute, such lockout resulting in the closing of the plant.

Loss of use: In compensation law, the loss of use of an organ or part of the body such as a finger, hand, leg, etcetera. Such loss may be partial or total.

Mandate: An order or command (oral or written) that must be obeyed; a judicial command directing enforcement of the court's decision.

Mandatory: Compulsory; something one must do; not a matter to be acted upon only if one wishes to; obligatory.

Marital deduction: The amount of money a wife or husband can inherit without paying estate taxes. For federal tax purposes, such deduction is equal to no more than one-half of the gross estate.

Maxim: Principles and rules generally recognized and accepted because they have been in use and have proved to be fair and reasonable over long periods of time.

Medallion Guaranteed: A method of authenticating the identiy of a person signing a document, similar to, but of a higher level than, a notary public

Medical records: Written material about the patient, including office and hospital charts, X rays, laboratory data, etcetera, detailing a patient's medical history and past and present illnesses. Medical records are the property of the physician or hospital, not the patient. However, medical records are subject to subpoena in cases involving medicolegal matters.

Menace: To threaten harm.

Mental competence: A state in which one is in possession of one's mental faculties and capable of the usual normal ability to express oneself. A mentally competent person recognizes right from wrong, is well-oriented, and is able to stand trial or to serve as a witness.

Mitigate: To lessen, as in reducing the punishment of a convicted person or decreasing the amount of damages a plaintiff may have been awarded. Also, to reduce the charges, such as from first-degree murder to manslaughter, because of extenuating circumstances.

Mortgage: The putting up of land or a building, or both, as security against a loan of money. Should the person who obtains the mortgage fail to pay off the loan as prescribed in the mortgage contract, the lender will take title and possession to the property.

Municipal: Pertaining to the local government of a city or town.

Native: A natural-born citizen; one who was born in the country of which he is a citizen.

Nee: A word added after a married woman's name, to indicate the name of her family before she was married. For example, Mrs. Mary Jones, nee Smith (French).

Negligence: Failure to do what a reasonable, careful, conscientious person is expected to do; doing something that a reasonable, careful conscientious person would not do.

Negotiate: Discussions leading to the conclusion of a business transaction or agreement. (Management and labor undergo negotiations in order to reach an agreement on labor contracts.)

Next of kin: The closest relatives. The term is frequently used to describe the closest blood relations who will inherit property from a person who dies without making a will.

No-fault: A common type of divorce in which neither party presents evidence of wrongdoing. It's important to note that no-fault divorces are not necessarily uncontested, as uncontested divorce means that both spouses have agreed upon issues such as alimony and child custody.

Nominate: The act of proposing an individual for a position, office, or appointment.

Nonpayment: Failure to pay a debt, according to an agreement. Nonpayment may serve as the basis for a suit to recover.

Notary public: A public official who is authorized to witness signatures on documents, to administer oaths, and to perform other tasks, such as attesting to the genuineness of various papers.

Notify: To give notice; to make facts and circumstances known to someone.

Nul: No; no one (Latin).

Oath: A pledge to tell the truth; a sworn promise to perform a duty; a calling on god to witness a statement.

Obliterate: To cancel out or erase written material in a legal document.

Occupant: A tenant; a person who takes possession of property that belongs to no one.

Offset: A claim made by an opposing party in a suit, such offset tending to cancel out the original claim of the plaintiff; a counterclaim.

Ombudsman: A person appointed by a local, state, or federal government to hear complaints from private citizens against their governments (Swedish). Such complaints are frequently transmitted to the appropriate governmental authority.

Omission: Failure to act; failure to do something one should do; failure to perform what the law requires one to do.

Operation of law: A term referring to the determination of rights and obligations merely through application of the existing laws covering a situation. As an example, if a person dies without having made a will, the heirs automatically inherit the property through the operation of law governing inheritance.

Oral contract: A spoken contract; a written contract that. Is incomplete but has been completed by oral (spoken) agreements.

Ordinance: A local law; a law passed by a legislative body of a city or township or other local government; a statute; a rule.

Out-of-pocket expenses: Money that one must pay to defray expenses while carrying out the usual duties and obligations in the performance of a job.

Owing: An unpaid debt; an obligation that is due; due; unpaid.

Par: Equal; average; normal.

Par value: An arbitrary minimum price at which each share of corporate stock can initially be sold by a corporation.

Payee: The person to whom a bill is to be paid.

Peculation: The unlawful taking over of government property or funds for personal use by an individual who has had such property or funds entrusted to his care.

Per se: By itself (Latin); taken alone; simply stated.

Perjury: False testimony; the telling of an untruth when acting as a witness in a court proceeding; the making of a false statement in an affidavit; the willful swearing to a falsehood in a matter before a court. Perjury occurs when someone has taken an oath to tell the truth and then knowingly tells an untruth; lying under oath. Perjury is punishable by severe fines and/or imprisonment.

Pertain: To relate to; to belong to.

Pertinent: Relevant; directed toward the issue being discussed; apropos; related; germane.

Petition: A written, formal request for a particular thing to be done or a certain act to be carried out. In equity proceedings, a petition is in actuality a complaint.

Plaint: A complaint; the presentation of a plaintiff's claim in a lawsuit.

Plaintiff: The party who is bringing a lawsuit against a defendant; the person or persons who are suing.

Plea: The response by one who is accused of a crime; the answer the law requires of a defendant who is accused.

Pledge: The granting of physical possession of goods or personal property to a person to whom one owes a debt. The creditor holds such property as security until the debt is paid.

Poll: To question each juror to hear whether he agrees with the verdict.

Pour-over will: A specialized will that simply "pours over" the testator's remaining assets into the testator's Living Trust or Joint Living Trust.

Power of attorney: 1. A written document stating that one appoints another to act in his behalf as an agent, giving him the authority to carry out certain specified acts. 2. A written document giving an attorney the authority to appear in court on someone's behalf.

Precedence: The right to precede or to go before; to take precedence means the privilege of going ahead of, rather than after; to consider first.

Preclude: 1. To make impossible; to stop; to prevent. 2. To exclude; to rule out.

Predecease: To die before another person dies.

Predecessor: A person who precedes, or goes before, another person. (President Ford was President Carter's predecessor in office.)

Premarital agreement: An agreement made between a man and woman prior to their marriage. It often includes provisions for the disposal of property should separation, divorce, or death ensue; an antenuptial settlement; a prenuptial agreement; an antenuptial contract.

Prescription: 1. A means of acquiring a right through continued possession and use over a prolonged period of time. As an example, a person who has used a right of way across another person's land for the past ten to twenty years may be said to have become entitled to that right of way through prescription. 2. A written order by a physician, given to a patient for presentation to a pharmacist. Such prescription orders a medication or medications that the pharmacist will prepare and contains information on dosages and use.

Presence of the testator: A signing of a will within the sight of the testator. This implies that witnesses are present and that the testator is conscious and knows what he is signing.

Presume: To believe; to accept as true, even before conclusive evidence has been presented; to assume.

Pretenses: Acts of pretending or making believe; a false pretense is a calculated, thought-out misrepresentation of facts.

Principal: 1. An amount of debt or loan, excluding any accumulated interest. 2. Primary, most important, main. 3. In a Principal-Agent relationship, the Principal authorizes the Agent to act for the Principal.

Principle: A doctrine; a fundamental belief; a clear truth, universally accepted, such as the principle of law that one should be punished for committing a crime.

Probable consequences: Those results or consequences that have a good likelihood of taking place following a particular act or event; outcomes that a reasonable person could have foreseen.

Probate: The legal process of recording a WILL in the appropriate place, generally a probate court, and proving that it is valid.

Process server: A person who hands a summons or subpoena upon a witness or defendant.

Profess: To declare publicly; to acknowledge openly.

Prognosis: The probability of recovery from an illness.

Promissory note: A written document stating that a certain debt will be paid at a specified time or within a specified period of time. The note will bear the signature of the debtor and will state to whom and when the money will be paid.

Proprietary Information: Information that the owner has a right to protect.

Proprietary rights: Rights and privileges of an owner of property.

Prosecute: To proceed and to maintain a legal action, such as a prosecuting attorney who tries in court to prove an accused person to be guilty; to attempt to enforce by legal action.

Prosecution: Following an established procedural process.

Protest: 1. Dissent; disapproval; a written statement, by someone making a payment, that he thinks the payment is illegal, exorbitant, unwarranted, etc. , thus reserving the right to get the money back. 2. An objection to a legal rule or judgment.

Protocol: 1. Accepted methods of procedure among diplomats, heads of state, etcetera; ceremonial rules and procedures. 2. A rough draft of an agreement or contract, or of a treaty between nations.

Proxies: 1. An individual authorized to act for another. A Proxy acts as a substitute or a representative. A Proxy can be authorized to vote for a shareholder of a corporation. In some states, a Proxy can be authorized to make health care decisions for another. 2. The document which authorizes an individual to act for another.

Proximate: Direct, as opposed to indirect; immediate, as opposed to delayed.

Proxy: 1. An individual authorized to act for another. A Proxy acts as a substitute or a representative. A Proxy can be authorized to vote for a shareholder of a corporation. In some states, a Proxy can be authorized to make health care decisions for another. 2. The document which authorizes an individual to act for another.

Psychiatrist: A physician who specializes in and treats disorders of the mind and mental disease.

Punitive damages: An award to a plaintiff beyond actual possible loss. Such damages are by way of punishing the defendant for his act.

Purport: To imply; to claim; to mean; to convey law; the full scope of an enacted statute.

Pursuant to: Conforming to; done in consequence of; following; according to.

Pursue: To follow through, as to pursue a claim until it is finally established; to continue actively a cause of action until its final conclusion.

Quittance: Exoneration; a release.

Quorum: A majority; the number of people who must be present to permit an organization, a group, a body, etcetera, to conduct its business and reach valid decisions.

Ratify: Confirm, republish, redeclare. To approve, to confirm, to reconfirm. A legal expression denoting absolute ratification.

Recourse: 1. The seeking of assistance and help. 2. The right of a person to get his just due by taking legal actions toward that end.

Redemption: The act of redeeming; turning in something, such as a bond, for cash.

Reference: 1. The act of sending a matter to a referee for his consideration and decision. 2. An agreement between two parties to place their dispute before an arbitrator or referee for his consideration and decision.

Refusal: 1. The denial of a demand or a request. 2. A negative response to comply with an order of a court.

Registered agent: The designated corporate contact person in a given state.

Reimburse: To pay back; to restore moneys that have been taken.

Relinquish: To abandon; to give up; to renounce a claim or right.

Remedies: The means employed by the law to correct injuries or to enforce legal rights.

Remission: A pardon; a release from a debt or obligation; an exoneration; the act of remittance (payment).

Remuneration: Payment for services rendered; salary; reward; recompense.

Render: To perform, such as to render a service; to deliver; to yield; to give up.

Reparation: The act of making amends for an injury or for damages that have been committed; the making good of a wrong.

Repeal: The annulment of an existing statute or law; to revoke a law and to substitute a new one in its place.

Residuary assets: What is left in an estate or trust after paying debts, expenses and specific bequests and distributions.

Residuary estate: The remaining assets of an estate after payment of debts, expenses, and specific bequests.

Revocable: The voiding, annulling or revoking of a thing.

Revocable Living Trust: A trust established while the maker (grantor) is still alive and which can be changed or cancelled by the grantor.

Revocable Trust: A cancelable arrangement created by a person ("Grantor"), whereby the Grantor transfers property to a trustee to be held for the benefit of the Grantor while alive, then distributed to named beneficiaries.

Revocation: The voiding, annulling or revoking of a thing.

Revoke: The voiding, annulling or revoking of a thing.

Right of first refusal: The priority right to purchase property simply by meeting a competing offer.

Right of representation: Per stirpes. The method of determining how a gift will be distributed, especially if a beneficiary is dead, namely, in equal shares to the deceased beneficiary's surviving children, with the share of a deceased child distributed, in turn, in equal shares to that deceased child's children, etcetera.

Sane: The state of having mental competence and soundness of mind; knowing right from wrong, being capable of intelligent reasoning, and generally acting in a normal, socially acceptable manner. The opposite of insane or mentally incompetent.

Scope of authority: The powers of an agent given to him by the principal, including not only the authority specifically designated but implied or inferred authority, too. In such instances in which there is doubt, the agent may claim that the scope of his authority to act for and in his principal's behalf is greater than that which is written down and recorded.

Secured creditor: A creditor with collateral; a person owed money who has the right to take and sell specific property of the debtor if the debt is not paid.

Security Deposit: Money paid to a landlord at the beginning of a lease to ensure the tenantÆs compliance with the terms of the lease. The money is held in trust by the landlord and may be used to cover costs resulting from any breach of the lease terms by the tenant, including damage to the property. If there are no such breaches, the money is refundable to the tenant at the end of the lease term.

Segregation: The act of separating, such as segregating the races in a school. Segregation of races in public places of all kinds is illegal in the United States and violates federal laws.

Seizure: To take forcible possession of a thing; to arrest and take a prisoner into custody.

Senate: The upper chamber of the Congress of the United States, numbering two selected representatives from each state. At present there are one hundred senators.

Senator: A member of the U. S. Senate, or of a state senate. There are two senators elected from each state to the U. S. Senate. States each have their own rules concerning the election of state senators. U.S. senators serve for a term of six years.

Separate maintenance: Money paid by a married person for the support of a spouse from whom one is separated.

Separate property: Property owned and controlled by a married person, the spouse having no rights concerning it at all. The owner of such property can dispose of it at will, without the consent of the spouse.

Set aside: To cancel, to annul; to revoke. The expression is used frequently when a higher court overrules a decision or judgment of a lower court, or when an indictment is dropped.

Severable: The quality of being able to exist independently. A severable law is one that continues to hold even if one clause or provision is held not to be valid.

Severance: 1. The act of separating and dividing. 2. When there are two or more defendants in the same case, one may wish to defend himself alone and not join with the others. This is termed severance.

Sheriff: A law officer whose duties include the keeping of the peace, the serving of summonses, subpoenas, and other legal documents, the calling of jurors and the carrying out of judgments issued by the courts. Sheriffs serve one county, to which their authority is limited.

Silent partner: A partner not generally known as a co-owner of a firm or business, yet is entitled to the rights of partnership; a dormant partner; a secret partner.

Small claims court: Courts set up for the express purpose of settling small claims. Decisions in such litigations are made by a judge within a short period of time, thereby avoiding a prolonged trial.

Social Security Act: A federal law providing for the establishment of universal federal and state insurance benefits, unemployment insurance, and other benefits for citizens who are in their later years.

Solicit: 1. To seek, to plead; to entreat; to implore; to ask for.

Solvency: Having sufficient funds so as to pay one's debts; the opposite of insolvency.

Special Power of Attorney: A document in which a person authorizes another person or organization to act on his or her behalf in specific situations.

Specific bequest: A gift of cash, a specific item, or a category of items, to a named person, as detailed in a will. For example, a wedding ring, $1000, or a car.

Specific distribution: A gift of cash, a specific item, or a category of items, to a named person, as detailed in a trust before the bulk of the trust is distributed. For example, a wedding ring, $1000, or a car.

Specific intent: Premeditated, conscious intention to perform a certain act. The term is used frequently to describe the intentions of a person to carry out a particular crime or prohibited act.

Statute: A law passed by the legislative branch of a government.

Statute of limitations: A law establishing a specified period of time during which a litigation (lawsuit) can take place, after that period, the suit can no longer be brought.

Statutes: A law passed by the legislative branch of a government.

Statutory: Created by the enactment of a law, relating to a statute or law; existing as the result of a statute.

Stepchild: A child of one's wife or husband by a former marriage.

Stock broker: A person who buys and sells stocks for his clients.

Stockholder: Someone who owns shares in a stock corporation. He is not responsible, merely by owning stock, for the actions of the corporate entity.

Strike: 1. To strike a word or passage, means to delete it. 2. A work stoppage by employees for the purpose of obtaining better wages, working conditions, or fringe benefits from an employer.

Sub-chapter S: An Internal Revenue Service election made by a qualifying corporation, to be taxed similar to that of a partnership or sole proprietorship.

Subcontract: An agreement between a contractor and a third party to perform certain duties that the contractor has been hired to perform. As an example, a contractor, hired to build a building, may engage a subcontractor to dig the site and put in the foundation for the building.

Subject matter: The matter in dispute; the material over which there is litigation.

Subject to: Governed by; subordinate to; provided that; contingent upon.

Subjection: The obligation of an individual to behave or act according to the will or judgment of another individual.

Sublease: The privilege of a person who has leased a premise to lease it to another person. In leases, the privilege to sublease must be stated specifically or the lessee will not be permitted to sublease.

Subordination: A lien or claim that is weaker than another lien or claim, and admittedly will be honored only after the stronger lien or claim has been satisfied.

Subpoena: A document ordering an individual to appear in court and give testimony. Failure to appear, without good reason, may lead to the imposing of a penalty.

Subrogation: 1. The act of substituting a claim against one person for a claim against another person. 2. The substitution of one individual for another in claiming a debt or right.

Subscribing witness: A person who sees a document signed and affixes his name to the document, thus testifying in writing that the event has taken place.

Succession: 1. The act of following another, or succeeding to the rights of another. 2. The acquiring of property after the former owner dies and leaves it to a successor.

Successor: One who succeeds or follows another in a particular role or office.

Superior court: A higher court than an inferior court, but one which has less authority than an appeals court. The exact status of a superior court differs from state to state.

Supersede: To replace; to annul; to take the place of; to render void; to set aside.

Suppress: To prohibit or to forbid; to put an end to something that already exists; to keep evidence from being presented by showing it to be irrelevant or gathered illegally.

Supreme Court: 1. A high court, in some states, the highest court; in other states the state supreme court is inferior to the court of appeals. 2. The United States Supreme Court is the highest in the land.

Surrogate: One who acts for another. In some states, an individual can designate a Surrogate to make health care decisions in a power of attorney document. The judge presiding over probate matters is called a Surrogate in some states.

Sworn: Having taken an oath; verified; attested to as being true.

Tangible personal property: All property, except land and buildings, that can be physically touched, such as furniture, jewelry, cars and clothing. Property such as stocks and bank accounts are not included because what can be touched in connection with these items is merely a piece of paper that represents the actual property. In summary of all property types, "real property" is land and buildings; "personal property" is everything else; "tangible personal property" is an item that can be touched.

Temporary custody: The awarding of custody of a child to a parent temporarily, pending the outcome of a separation or divorce suit.

Tenancy in common: The possession of property by two or more people wherein each party possesses an undivided interest in the entire property. This is different from a situation in which each party owns a designated portion of the property, such as land.

Tenant in Common: An individual who owns an undivided interest in real or personal property with one or more people, with no right of survivorship.

Testament: A will disposing of property of a deceased person.

Testate: A person who dies leaving a will; the opposite of intestate.

Testator: Someone who has made or is making a will (testament).

Teste: To bear witness; a declaration at the conclusion of a court order (writ) bearing witness to the official character of the document (Latin).

Testify: To give evidence as a witness, under oath. False testimony, given under oath, is a serious offense known as perjury.

Time of the essence: Means that the performance of a term or condition of the contract in the time period specified is important, and that the failure to perform on time will lead to a breach of the contract.

To take title: To gain and hold possession of property legally.

To wit: Namely; that is to say.

Toll: 1. To postpone the effect of a statute of limitations, thus permitting a legal action to be undertaken after a longer than normal period of time. 2. A fee paid for use of a bridge, tunnel, etcetera.

Tort: A wrong committed by one person against another; a civil not a criminal wrong; a wrong not arising out of a contract; a violation of a legal duty that one person has toward another. (Negligence and libel are torts.) Every tort is composed of a legal obligation, a breach of that obligation, and damage as the result of the breach of the obligation.

Total disability: Complete inability to work or to carry out any of the duties of one's job or profession, even though one's body may not be totally disabled. A person who has been blinded is totally disabled if he is engaged in riveting or other kinds of work requiring him to function high up on the steelworks of a construction job.

Total loss: 1. The complete loss of property, as in an explosion that has totally demolished a building. 2. In medicine, the complete loss of a part of the body, such as in amputation.

Trade secret: A process or compound known only to its owner and manufacturer, although the process or compound is not patented.

Trademark: A name, marking, sign, or motto that a company can, by law, use exclusively in identifying and selling its product.

Traveler's check: In actuality, a cashier's check of the issuing bank. Upon its issue, the person receiving the check signs it; when he cashes it, he signs it again in the presence of the person who will cash it or give merchandise in exchange for it. Traveler's checks are particularly valuable as they are not negotiable when lost. The person obtaining traveler's checks from his bank usually pays a small fee to the issuing bank for the service.

Trover: 1. A suit to regain property that was lost, the suit being against the person who found and has held on to the property. 2. A suit for damages against a person who found property and wrongfully converted it to his own use.

Trust: An arrangement created by one person (the "grantor") where assets of the grantor are transferred to another person (the "trustee") to be held for the benefit of a third person (the "beneficiary"). The grantor may also be the trustee and/or the beneficiary of the trust.

Trustee: A person who holds, manages, and distributes property for the benefit of another; a fiduciary.

Uncontested: A type of divorce where both spouses have agreed on terms, such as alimony payments and child custody. Uncontested divorces are often the least expensive.

Underwrite: To bind oneself to support a project, usually by investing money; to insure; to sign one's name to a document, thereby assuming an obligation.

Undue influence: An improper amount of pressure which influences someone to do something he would not do if left to his own devices. As an example, if it can be proved that someone persuaded a maker of a will to leave him money that he would not have received except for his undue influence, then the will might be set aside and nullified.

Unliquidated claim: A disputed claim; an unsettled dispute.

Unprofessional conduct: Dishonorable or immoral behavior; conduct that violates the code of ethics of one's position or profession.

Unsecured creditor: A creditor without collateral; a person owed money who has no rights in specific property as security for the debt.

Usury: The act of charging an exorbitant, excessive, illegal rate of interest for a loan; an unlawful contract for the loan of money.

Utter: 1. Total; absolute; complete. 2. To say; to speak words.

Valuable consideration: A matter of contract in which one party agrees to do something in return for something the other party agrees to give him, usually money or property. The term implies that the person promised something has the right to enforce the promisor to pay him.

Valuation: The estimated worth of something; the price placed upon something.

Value received: A term frequently used in a promissory note, meaning that a lawful consideration (a situation wherein one party agrees to do something in return for something the other party agrees to give him) has been given for the note.

Venture: A new business enterprise, embarked upon to make a profit. It is implicit that a venture carries with it the possibility of losing money, as well as making money.

Verbal agreement: An agreement reached orally, not committed to writing; a parol contract.

Vested: Something not subject to being taken away, such as vested rights; complete; settled; absolute; not dependent upon conditions, such as the complete, vested ownership of property.

Viability: The ability to sustain life, such as the ability of an unborn child to live if it were not in its mother's womb; capable of working out, such as the viability of an enterprise; being able to survive; practicable.

Vice: 1. Instead of; in place of, as a vice president. 2. Immoral or sinful conduct. 3. A defect or fault; an imperfection.

Visitation: The act of visiting and investigating the premises of an institution or business by an official agency. Such visitation is usually carried out to determine if an institution is being managed properly. Prisons, state hospitals, and other institutions are often visited by specially appointed committees of observers or overseers.

Vital statistics: Information on births, deaths, longevity, marriages, divorces, matters of health, etcetera, kept by the public authorities. Such data is kept in a hall of records.

Void: Having no legal or binding effect; null; ineffectual.

Waive: To relinquish or give up a right, privilege, or benefit. A waiver implies that the person knows what he is doing when renouncing his right, privilege, or benefit.

Ward: 1. A child placed by a court under the care of a guardian.

Warrant: 1. A court order giving authority to a sheriff or police officer to arrest a person, to search a house, etcetera. 2. To state that something is true.

Warranties: 1. A statement that certain facts are true, made by one party to a contract and accepted by the other party as true. 2. An agreement to make up for any damages that result from a false representation of facts.

Warranty: 1. A statement that certain facts are true, made by one party to a contract and accepted by the other party as true. 2. An agreement to make up for any damages that result from a false representation of facts.

Wholly: Completely; entirely; exclusively; the opposite of partially.

Widow: A married woman whose husband has died and who has not remarried.

Will: 1. A document made in anticipation of eventual death, in which a person states what he wants done with his property after he dies. Such a document must be made according to law, and is recorded and filed in a probate court after the person has died. 2. Desire or wish. 3. Determination. 4. The mental capacity to carry out a conscious act.

Witness: 1. An individual who testifies under oath at a trial, a hearing, or before a legislative body. 2. To see or hear something take place. 3. To be present, and often to sign, a legal document, such as a will or deed. Having a witness sign lends authenticity to a document.

Writ: A formal order of a court, in writing, ordering someone who is out of court to do something.

Writ of execution: An order of the court that its judgment (decision) be carried out.

Written consent: Consent given in writing in lieu of a meeting to approve certain actions.

Zoning: The division of certain areas in a community into various categories for permission to build, or not to build, certain types of structures. For example, a certain area may be zoned for residential structures only, while another area permits business structures only.