Abandonment - Voluntary giving up of a right or property without the intention of reclaiming it.

Abatement - Termination of all or part of a continuing monetary charge, such as taxes or rent.

Abrogation - Annulment of a former law, through a legislative act, exercise of a constitutional power, or by usage.

Abuse - Excessive or improper departure from reasonable use of some thing or power, or from reasonable conduct toward a person.

AB or ABC Trust = LT - A form of living Trust

Accelerated Charitable Trust - An investment vehicle providing a heightened rate of return and significant tax avoidance and deferral capabilities, as well as the ability to make a significant contribution to a favorite charity at no real or little cost to them.

Action - Formal complaint or suit brought in a court.

Administrative agency - Governmental body responsible for administering and implementing a particular body of legislation, such as laws governing traffic safety or workers' compensation. May have rulemaking power and quasi-judicial authority to decide disputes.

Administrative hearing - Proceeding before an administrative agency. Rules governing the proceeding, including rules of evidence, are generally less strict than in civil or criminal trials.

Administrator or Administratrix - Person appointed by a court to represent a deceased individual's estate.

Adversary Proceeding - Legal process involving parties with opposing interests.

Amicus Curiae - (Latin: "friend of the court.") Person or organization which files a legal brief with the court expressing its views on a case involving other parties.

Annual Exclusion - The maximum amount that a person can give each year as a gift without having to pay a gift tax.

Apeal - Ask a court to review and change the result in a case decided by a lower court.

Arm's Length Transaction - Deal negotiated by unrelated parties, each acting in its own best interest. Sets a standard for determining fair market value.

Assault - An attempt or threat to harm another person which causes apprehension in that person. Although the term frequently is used to describe illegal force, the use of force technically is battery.

Assignor = Grantor - A person who assigns or transfers property to another.

Attorney (Power of) -An instrument authorizing another to act as one’s agent or attorney. Power is revoked on the death of the principal by operation of law.

Automatic Stay - In bankruptcy law, a bar to debt collection efforts against a debtor that automatically occurs when the debtor files a voluntary petition for bankruptcy and supporting documentation under the Bankruptcy Code. The stay does not affect debts incurred after the petition is filed.


Bad Faith - Intention to mislead or deceive; conscious refusal to meet some obligation. Implies active ill will, as opposed to negligence.

Bailiff - Court officer responsible for keeping order in the court, custody of the jury and custody of the prisoners while in the court.

Bailment - Delivery of personal property by one person (bailor) to another person (bailee) for the purpose of taking some action regarding the property.

Bankruptcy Proceedings - Generally, the various types of proceedings under the federal Bankruptcy Code, which may be initiated by a debtor or its creditors. Chapter 7 (straight bankruptcy): is designed to liquidate the debtor's property, pay off its creditors and free the debtor from its other debts. Chapter 11 (business reorganization): allows the debtor business to continue to operate until it achieves a reorganization plan approved by two-thirds of its creditors. If the debtor is insolvent when it files for Chapter 11, the plan also must be approved by a majority of its shareholders. If it cannot achieve an approved plan, the court will supervise liquidation proceedings. Chapter 13 (wage earner's plan): allows wage-earning individuals to file a plan with the court giving them additional time to pay unsecured debts. The plan must be acceptable to the unsecured creditors and the debtor's future earnings must be under the supervision of a trustee until the debts are paid.

Bargaining Agent - Labor union certified by National Labor Relations Board as exclusive representative of employees in a bargaining unit. A bargaining unit may be either a union or a group of employees with similar interests or jobs.

Beneficial Owner - Someone who enjoys the rights and advantages of property ownership but does not hold legal title, such as a person for whom a trustee holds the legal title.

Bequest -Gift of personal property made in a person's will.

Best Evidence -The most direct evidence possible, such as an original document to prove its existence and contents. A copy or testimony by a witness would be secondary evidence. The best evidence rule prohibits introducing secondary evidence unless best evidence is not obtainable, through no fault of the party who wants to introduce the secondary evidence.

Binding Authority - Legal precedent that controls the outcome in a case; for example, a decision on the same point of law by a higher court in the same state.

Blue Sky Laws - State statutes regulating offerings and sales of securities that are intended to protect investors against fraudulent companies.

Boycott - Refusal to do business with a company in order to obtain some concession from the company. Can be a labor union tactic, antitrust violation or consumers' pressure tactic. A secondary boycott is the refusal to do business with the boycotted company by people who will not benefit directly from the concession sought.

Breach of Contract - Failure, without legal excuse, to keep all or some part of the promises made in a contract.

Brief - Written statement from an attorney to the court about a case, containing summaries of the facts, relevant laws and an argument showing how the laws support the position of the attorney's client.

Burden of Proof - In the law of evidence, the duty to prove disputed facts in a case.

Business Judgment Rule -Relieves management of a business from liability for a corporate transaction if the transaction was made in good faith.

Business Trust - A trust in which the managers are principals and the shareholders are "Cestuis Que or the benificiaries of the contents of the trust – but legal title and possession of the contents of the trust reside with the trustor.

Bypass Trust = LT -A form of living trust where upon the death of a spouse all of his or her assets pass to the bypass trust, effectively removing those assets from the remaining spouses taxable estate.


"C" Corporation – or S Corporation - A small business corporation, which under certain conditions, may elect to have its undistributed taxable income taxed to its shareholders. The major significance is in the fact that S status usually avoids the corporate income tax and corporate losses can be claimed by its shareholders.

Capacity Defense - Broadly, describes a defendant's lack of some fundamental ability to be held accountable. For example, a very young child may lack the capacity to commit a crime.

Cause of Action - Combination of law and facts that gives someone the right to seek a remedy through the court.

Certiorari - (Latin: "To be informed of.") Writ issued by a superior to a lower court requiring the lower court to produce a certified record of a case tried there. It is most frequently used by the U.S. Supreme Court as a way of selecting the cases it wants to hear.

Civil Action - Action to enforce private rights; in general, all kinds of actions except criminal proceedings.

Civil Law - Body of law concerned with private rights and remedies.

Class Action - Procedural device enabling one or more individuals to sue for themselves and as representatives of other people if: there is an identifiable group of people with a well-defined interest in the facts and law of the suit; there are too many people in the group for it to be practical to bring them all before the court; and the individuals who sue adequately represent the entire group.

Class Gift - A usu. Testamentary gift of a sum to a group of unspecified persons whose number and identity and share of the gift will be determined sometime in the future (as at the death of the donor).

Clear and Present Danger Doctrine - Constitutional law doctrine that the government can restrict First Amendment freedoms of speech and press if the restrictions are necessary to prevent imminent danger to interests that the government lawfully may protect, such as public order.

Cloud on Title - Claim against real estate, such as a mortgage or tax, that could affect ownership, but that can be proved invalid.

Collateral Source Rule - Ensures that compensation awarded to a plaintiff in a lawsuit will not be reduced if the plaintiff receives compensation for the same injury from another source, such as insurance.

Common Law - Principles and rules of action related to government and the safeguarding of persons and property that stem from past usage and affirmation by courts; law made by judges rather than by legislatures.

Complaint - Formal statement that begins civil or criminal legal proceedings.

Completed Gift - A gift in which the dominion and control of the property is placed beyond the donor’s reach.

Consideration - Broadly, something of value provided in exchange for a person's entering into a contract.

Consolidation of Actions - By order of a court, bringing together of several closely related cases into one trial and judgment.

Constructive - Presumed legally, even if not necessarily true factually. For example, constructive eviction occurs when a landlord hasn't actually forced a tenant to leave, but has made the property uninhabitable.

Conveyance - Transfer of an interest in land from an individual or group to another individual or group.

Copyright - Literary, musical or other kind of author's right to ownership of his or her creation.

Corporation - A public or private legal entity chartered by a U.S. state or by the federal government, and separate and distinct from the persons who own it. It is regarded by the courts as an artificial person; it may own property, incur debts, sue or be sued. Three distinguishing characteristics are: Limited liability; - Owners can only lose what they invest Easy transfer of stock through the sale of shares of stock Continuity of existence.

Counterclaim - Claim brought by a defendant in a lawsuit against the plaintiff.

Covenant - Written agreement in which one party promises another that something is, will or will not be done, or attests the truth of certain facts. Today most commonly used in real estate law.

Creditor - Generally, a person or entity to which someone owes a debt. A secured creditor has a claim backed by collateral, such as a mortgage or other security; an unsecured creditor lacks such collateral. In bankruptcy law, a priority creditor has a secured claim that by statute must receive more favorable treatment than unsecured claims. For example, in a Chapter 7 distribution, priority claims must be paid first; in a Chapter 11 plan, priority claims must be paid in full. A non-priority creditor does not receive preferential treatment.

Creditors' Committee - In bankruptcy, committee of representative creditors elected (in Chapter 7) or appointed (in Chapter 11) to perform various services on behalf of the creditors they represent.

Criminal Law - Law that forbids conduct harmful to society and sets the punishment for such conduct.

Cross Claim - Claim brought by a defendant in a lawsuit against a co-defendant in the suit.

Custodian - Generally, person or financial institution with control of property or other assets. In bankruptcy law, a third party with authority to take charge of a debtor's assets for the benefit of all creditors.


Damages - Money payment for an injury or loss caused by an illegal act, omission or negligence by another person.

Death Tax - a tax assessed on the transfer of property (as an estate, inheritance, legacy, or succession) after the transferor’s death.

Debtor - Generally, person who is liable to pay a claim. In bankruptcy law, persons who voluntarily file a petition of bankruptcy or have such a petition filed against them.

Declaratory Judgment - Judicial statement of the rights of the parties in a lawsuit brought to clarify the parties' legal positions.

De Facto - (Latin: "in fact," "actually.") Used to describe something that exists in fact but not legally, as opposed to de jure (Latin: "in law," "lawfully").

Defalcation - Usually used to refer to financial misconduct by officers of corporations or public officials; specifically, acts of defaulting, embezzling, misappropriating or failing to account properly for funds.

Defease - To annul or revoke.

Demurrer - Defendant's claim that even if the charges in a case are true, the legal consequences aren't sufficient to impose any liability on the defendant.

Deposition - Testimony of a witness taken under oath, but not in a courtroom. May be used to discover evidence or to preserve testimony for later use in court.

Design Patent - Patent granted for the overall ornamental appearance of an object.

Disability - In strictly legal sense, lack of legal capacity to perform some act. Used in a physical sense in contexts such as Workers' Compensation Acts.

Discharge - In bankruptcy law, the release of debtors from their debts, with the exception of debts not allowed to be discharged under the Bankruptcy Code.

Discrimination - Unfair treatment or denial of a privilege based on sex, age, race, nationality or religion.

Disguised Donation - A transfer of property (as a sale) that does not have a sufficient reciprocal consideration (as a proportional price) so that it is considered a gratuitous donation and must meet the statutory requirements for a donation (as a notarial act) to be valid.

Dismissal with Prejudice - Final judgment against the plaintiff on a case that prohibits bringing an action on the same cause in the future. In contrast, dismissal without prejudice allows the plaintiff to sue again for the same cause.

Donation - The making of an esp. charitable gift.

Donation inter vivos - A donation that transfers property owned by the donor and that takes effect upon the donee’s acceptance.

Donation mortis causa - A donation that is to take effect on the donor’s death and that is revocable.

Due Diligence - In reference to business acquisition or merger, investigation of the financial, physical and legal condition of a company before the transaction is completed.

Due Process of Law -Course of legal proceedings according to established rules and principles for enforcement and protection of individual rights; constitutionally required minimum procedures.

Duress - Any means, such as threats of bodily harm, used to force an individual to do something against his will.


Easement - Right for someone other than a property owner to use the property in some way. For example, the right to maintain a public path through a farmer's field.

Embezzlement - Unlawful taking of money or property lawfully in their possession by employees or others in a position of trust.

Eminent Domain - Power for public authorities to take private property for public purposes. The property owner must be paid fair compensation.

Encroachment - Unauthorized intrusion onto public or private property by a structure such as a wall or fence.

Encumbrance - Liability attached to real estate, such as a mortgage, unpaid taxes, or a right of way.

Equivalents Doctrine - In patent law, doctrine that says that two devices that work in essentially the same way to achieve essentially the same result are the same, even if they look or are named differently.

Error - In court, mistaken interpretation of facts or application of the law that can provide grounds for judicial review and reversal of the outcome of the case on appeal.

Escrow - Something of value in a transaction, such as money or a deed, held by a third party until some condition of the transaction is fulfilled.

Estate Tax - An excise in the form of a percentage of the taxable estate that is imposed on a property owner’s right to transfer the property to others after his or her death.

Estoppel - Broadly, legal principle that bars an individual who has spoken or acted in a certain way, and whose words or actions have affected another person's behavior, to later deny or reverse those words or actions in order to benefit in some way at the other person's expense. For example, estoppel by judgment means that if a fact is decided in court, parties to the case can't challenge that fact in the future, unless the court's decision is reversed.

Exclusionary Rule - Doctrine that evidence obtained in violation of an individual's constitutional rights is not admissible against that individual in a trial.

Executor or Executrix - Person appointed by individual who made a will to carry out the provisions of the will.

Executory Contract - Generally, contract that hasn't yet been completed or performed. Under the Bankruptcy Code, contract which is so unperformed by both the debtor and other party that failure by either of them to complete the performance would constitute a material breach of contract.

Exemplary Damages - Compensation greater than is necessary to pay a plaintiff for a loss, awarded because the loss was aggravated by violence, malice or fraud; punitive damages.

Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies - Doctrine requiring that the person seeking relief in a matter relating to an administrative subject must try all available administrative remedies before going to court.

Exigent Circumstances - Emergency conditions, such as the presence of a gun in a vehicle on the highway, that permit police to enter a place without a warrant.


Fact Question - Issues in a trial or hearing concerning facts and how or whether they occurred, as opposed to questions of law.

Failure of Consideration - Not achieving the expected value of something given to induce a person to enter into a contract.

Family Limited Partnership - A partnership made up of one or more partners or family members who manage a business and are personally liable for partnership debt and one or more limited partners (a partner whose liability to third party creditors of the partnership is limited to the amount invested by such partner in the partnership) who contribute capital and share in profits but take no part in running the business and incur no liability with respect to partnership obligations beyond contribution.

Felony - Under federal law and many state statutes, any offense punishable by death or by imprisonment for more than one year.

Fiduciary - As a noun, a person who manages money or property for someone else. As an adjective, relating to trust or confidence, particularly in a financial context, such as a fiduciary duty.

Four Corners Rule - States that the intentions of parties to an agreement must be understood from the whole document, not individual parts of it or matters outside it.

Franchise - In business use, right to use a name or sell products and services.

Fraud - Harmfully false and deceptive statement of fact.

Fraudulent Conveyance or Fraudulent Transfer - Transfer of assets with the intention of putting them beyond the reach of a creditor.

Full Faith and Credit Clause - Article IV, section 1 of the U.S. Constitution, which provides that all states must recognize the legislative acts, public records and judicial decisions of other states.


Garnishment - Statutory proceeding that seizes money or property, in the possession of or under the control of a third party, to pay an individual's debts.

Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax - a transfer tax on a generation skipping transfer.

Gift - An intentional and gratuitous transfer of real or personal property by a donor with legal capacity who actually or constructively delivers the property to the donee with the intent of giving up dominion over the property and investing it in the donee who accepts it: a voluntary transfer of property without compensation.

Gift inter vivos - A gift made during the lifetime of the donor and delivered with the intent of surrendering immediately and irrevocably dominion and control over the property.

Gift over - A gift esp. by will of property that takes effect upon the termination or failure of a preceding estate (as a life estate) in the property.

Gift tax - an excise tax imposed on a donor for gifts of property made during the donor’s lifetime.

Grantor Trust (Living Trust) - Trusts whereby the grantor retains control over the income or personal property or both to such an extent that such grantor will be treated as the owner of the property and its income for income tax purposes. The result is to make the income from a grantor trust taxable to the grantor and not to the beneficiary who receives it.

Gross Negligence - Failure to perform a manifest duty in reckless disregard of the consequences to another person's life or property.

Guaranty - Agreement to ensure that another person meets an obligation.


Habeas Corpus - (Latin: "You have the body.") Name of a variety of writs to bring an individual before a court or judge. Most commonly refers to Habeas corpus ad subjiciendum, a writ to release a person from unlawful imprisonment.

Holding Company - Company whose business is owning stock in and supervising management of other companies in whose stock it usually has a controlling interest.

Homestead - The dwelling house and the adjoining land where the head of the family dwells. Technically, an artificial estate in land devised to protect the possession and enjoyment of the owner against the claims of his creditors, by withdrawing the property from execution and forced sale, so long as the land is occupied as a home.

Horizontal Merger - Acquisition of one company by another that produces the same or similar products and sells them in the same geographical market.


Immigration - Non-citizen's entry into a country to become a permanent resident. Emigration is the act of leaving one's native country.

In Camera Proceedings - Trial or hearing held in a place not open to the public. For example, private review of evidence by a judge outside the presence of the parties.

Incentive Stock Option (ISO) - Rights granted by your company to purchase shares of the corporations stock at a fixed price for a specified period of time. Consequently, ISO holders will experience highly favorable tax treatment, including the possibility of avoiding the payment of taxes associated with the ISOs through vehicles such as an Accelerated Charitable Trust.

Included Offense - Crime that is part of another crime.

Inculpate - Blame or accuse of involvement in a crime.

Indemnify - Compensate a victim through money, repair or replacement of a loss.

Independent Contractor - Person who contracts to perform some action for another person or organization, but is not under their control as to how the work is done.

Indictment - Written accusation of a crime, made by a grand jury to the court. Referred to as a true bill; failure to indict is called no bill.

Inheritance Tax - an excise tax that is levied upon the privilege of receiving property as heir or next of kin under the law of intestacy and that is measured by the value of the property received.

Informed Consent - Person's agreement to allow something to happen, such as a medical procedure, that is based on full understanding of the benefits and risks of the event.

Insolvent - Generally, lacking the means to pay debts. In bankruptcy law, describes a person or business that can't pay debts as they fall due or in the normal course of business.

Intangible Asset - Nonphysical value that an ongoing business has in its agreements, symbols and relationships, such as franchises, trademarks and customer goodwill.

Intellectual Property - Collective term used to refer to intangible property rights, such as copyrights, trademarks, patents or trade secrets.

Intestate - Dying without having made a will.

Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust - A device commonly used in estate planning. A type of trust, the subject matter of which consists in whole or in part of life insurance policies owned by the trustees and payable to the trustees and payable to the trust on the death of the insured. The trust cannot be revoked or recalled by the trustor.

Irrevocable Trust - A trust that cannot be revoked or recalled by the one who created it (trustor) without the consent of the beneficiary.


Joint Ownership - United or combined in unity of interest in owning something

Joint and Several Liability - Doctrine that permits a group of defendants to be held both individually and collectively liable for all damages suffered by the plaintiff. This means that a plaintiff can recover the entire amount of damages from one defendant, even if all of the defendants are liable.

Journalists' Privilege - Protects publisher against a legal action for having defamed someone if it published fair comments on public figures in matters of public concern.

Judgment - Official decision of a court resolving the issues in a legal action and stating the rights and obligations of those involved in the action.


Kiting - Writing checks on a bank account against deposits that haven't yet cleared from another bank.


Leading Case - Common term for case regarded as having determined the law on a particular point, thus becoming a guide for later decisions.

Legal Fiction - Assumption of a fact that may or may not be true, made by a court to decide a legal question.

Letter - In legal sense, a commission, patent or written instrument that grants some authority or right. For example, a letter of credence certifies the appointment and qualifications of an ambassador; a letter of credit authorizes someone to give money or credit to another person and collect repayment from the writer.

Life Insurance - A contract between the holder of a policy and an insurance company whereby the company agrees in return for premium payments to pay a specified sum or face value or maturity value of the policy to the designated beneficiary upon the death of the insured.

Life Insurance Trust - A type of trust where the contents of the trust consists in whole or in part of life insurance policies owned by the trustees and payable to the trust on the death of the insured.

Limited Liability Partnership - Partners who contribute only money to a partnership in business and are not involved in the day to day activities of the business. Their liability is limited to their investments.

Living Trust –Also called an Inter Vivos Trust - An active trust that is established during the life of settlor or trustor. (Person who is setting up trust for beneficiary).

Long Arm Statute - Statute that allows a court to exercise personal jurisdiction over a person or business that does not reside in the state where the court is located.


Malfeasance - Commission of a wrongful act

Malice - Intentional commission of a wrongful act, performed without justification or excuse.

Mandamus - (Latin: "We command.") Writ traditionally used in federal court to remedy abuses of judicial power in a lower court. For example, used by a court of appeals to compel a district judge to perform an action he had refused to take or to rescind an action he was not legally allowed to make.

Manual Gift - a gift esp. under the civil law of Louisiana made of a movable corporeal object by actual delivery and involving no formalities.

Material Fact - Generally, fact that may or does determine whether some action is taken. For example, in the context of a lawsuit, a fact is a material fact if the case could not be supported without it. In a financial context, a fact is material if it contains information that an average prudent investor would consider important in making a decision to purchase a company's stock.

Misfeasance - Improper performance of a lawful act.

Misprision - Describes an offense that doesn't have a specific name. For example, an individual is guilty of misprision of felony if that person conceals a felony committed by someone else but is not an accessory to the crime.

Mitigation of Damages - Also called doctrine of avoidable consequences. Imposes a duty on victims of a tort or breach of contract to take reasonable steps to limit their injuries or losses.


Negligence - Generally, omitting to do something which a reasonable and prudent person would do, or doing something which a reasonable and prudent person would not do.

Next Friend - Person appointed by the court to look after the interests of someone who can't act on his or her own.

Next of Kin - Persons with the closest blood ties to someone; also persons who are legally entitled to a share of the estate of someone who died without a will, who may not be related by blood.

Nisi Decree - Interim decree or order that will eventually become final unless circumstances change.

Nolo Contendere - (Latin: "I will not contest it.") Defendant's plea in a criminal case that has similar legal effect as pleading guilty, except that it can't be used against the defendant in a civil action based on the same charges. This plea can only be entered with consent of the court.

Nonfeasance - Failure to perform some act which should have been performed.

Non Qualified Stock Option (NSO) - Rights granted by your company to purchase shares of the corporations stock at a fixed price for a specified period of time. These options do not meet the strict requirements for qualification as "Incentive Stock Options" under the Internal Revenue Code and thus are not given special favorable tax treatment.

Novation - Substitution of a new contract, debt or obligation for an existing one.


Obiter Dictum - Remark, argument or other words in a legal opinion that are irrelevant to the decision; they do not establish a precedent. Often used in the plural, dicta.

Objection - In a trial, calling the judge's attention to improper evidence or procedure.

Offense - A violation of criminal law.

Opinion - Statement by a judge or court of the decision in a case, describing the law applied to the case and the reasons for the decision; or document written by an attorney for a client, stating the attorney's understanding of the law related to some body of fact.

Option - Right to purchase or lease something at agreed-upon terms and price, within a set period of time.

Ordinance - Commonly, regulation passed by a municipal legislative body.

Out-of-Court Settlement - Agreement reached between plaintiff and defendant to resolve a lawsuit.


Pardon - Generally, exempting someone from punishment for a crime.

Partnership -A contract between two or more people in a joint business who agree to pool their funds and talent and share in the profits and losses of the business. Those who are involved and liable for the day to day activities and whose individual acts are binding on the other partner are general partners. Those partners who contribute only money and are not involved in the day to day activities or liabilities are limited partners.

Patent - Property right granted by a government generally giving the owner the right to exclude others from making, using or selling an invention.

Penal Code - Compilation of state or federal criminal laws.

Pension Plan, Defined - Employer promises specific benefits to each employee. Sometimes called fixed-benefit pension plan.

Pension Plan, Qualified -Meets the requirements of Internal Revenue Service Code, Section 401; the employer can take a tax deduction in the year it makes contributions, but payments are not taxable to employees until they receive them.

Performance Bond - Given by contractor to ensure that the contract will be completed on time even if the contractor itself can't finish the work. Also known as a completion bond.

Perjury - False statement of material importance made under oath by a person who doesn't believe the statement is true.

Perpetuities - Continuing forever. Legally, pertaining to real property. Any condition extending the inalienability or property beyond the time of a life or lives in being plus twenty-one years. A perpetuity is a limitation which takes the subject matter of the perpetuity out of commerce for a period greater than a life or lives in being and 21 years thereafter, plus the ordinary period of gestation. (WHAATT???)

Perpetual Trust - A trust which is to continue as long as the need for it continues as for the lifetime of a beneficiary or the term of a particular charity

Person - Usually a human being, but term sometimes may refer to a company, labor organization, corporation, partnership, limited liability company or other legal entities.

Plaintiff - In civil law, person who brings an action.

Plead - Make a defendant's formal answer to a plaintiff's complaint or to a criminal indictment.

Power of Attorney - Written document authorizing an individual to take certain legal actions on behalf of another person.

Precedent - Decision by a court that provides an example for later cases involving a similar point of law.

Pre-emption - Constitutional law doctrine that federal law takes precedence over any applicable state law where Congress so intends.

Preference or Preferential Transfer - In bankruptcy law, debtor's payment to one or more creditors that gives their claims a more advantageous position than other creditors' claims.

Preliminary Hearing - Hearing by a judge to determine whether an individual charged with a crime should be held for trial.

Presentment - Accusation of a crime initiated by a grand jury, as opposed to an indictment in response to a government suit.

Prevailing Party - Winning party in the main issue in a lawsuit.

Prior Restraint - Imposing restrictions before publication on what a newspaper or other news medium can publish.

Privileged Communications - Statements protected from forced disclosure in court, based on the fact that they were made within a "protected" relationship, such as husband/wife or attorney/client.

Probable Cause - In criminal law, reasonable grounds to justify a search or arrest, or to bring a person to trial.

Probate - In strict usage, court procedure to prove a will valid or invalid. Often extended to include everything related to administering an estate.

Pro Bono - (Latin: "for the good"). Used to describe services performed free of charge.

Procedural Due Process - Minimum standards to protect personal liberty and property guaranteed by various amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

Procedural Law - Generally, the body of law establishing the method of enforcing rights, as compared to "substantive" laws establishing what those rights are.

Product Liability - Legal responsibility of manufacturers and sellers of products to compensate persons harmed by their products.

Promulgate - Announce officially.

Proof of Claim - In bankruptcy proceedings, creditor's statement under oath that states amount owed to it and details establishing the basis of the claim.

Proprietary - Under the exclusive control of an individual or company.

Prospectus - Description of securities and material facts about a company; governed by federal securities laws and regulations.

Proximate Cause -Cause sufficiently closely related to its effect, in time and foreseeability, to justify imposing legal consequences for the effect.

Public Corporation - Entity created to administer public affairs, such as a municipality. Also, a company whose securities are traded on a securities exchange.

Public Defender - Attorney employed by government or appointed by court to represent indigent criminal defendants.


QTIP - Qualified Terminable Interest Property Trust - Allows assets to be transferred between spouses. The grantor of a Q-tip trust directs income from the assets to his or her spouse for life but has the power to distribute the assets upon the death of the spouse. The type of trust qualifies the grantor for the unlimited marital deduction if the spouse should die first.

Quitclaim - Release by a person of any current or future action against someone else; or giving up by a person of a claim or title to some property.


Reasonable Doubt - Doubt based on the exercise of rational judgment and the presence or absence of evidence to support a conclusion.

Rebut - Refute or defeat an argument or assumption in a legal proceeding.

Receiver - In bankruptcy, person appointed by the court to control the assets of the bankrupt party.

Recognizance - Obligation undertaken to appear in court; called personal recognizance if it does not require a bond.

Recovery - Compensation obtained as a result of a court action.

Recusal - A judge's withdrawal from hearing a lawsuit because of personal interest or bias, or the appearance of bias.

Registered Trademark - Governmental registration granted for words and/or symbols employed to identify the source of goods or services.

Registration Statement - Document containing financial data and other information for investors; required for companies intending to issue securities for public sale or trading in public markets.

Restraining Order - Issued by a court as a temporary measure to keep someone from acting until the court has determined whether to issue an injunction against the act.

Restrictive Covenant - Provision in a deed that puts limitations on the use of the property; or, in a partnership or employment contract, provision that limits an individual's freedom to do the same sort of work after the contract ends.

Reversal - Rejection by an appellate court of a lower court decision.

Right to Work Laws - State laws providing that people can't be required to join a union or pay union dues as a condition of employment.

Ruling - Interpretation of some law or regulation by a court or administrative agency; or judge's determination regarding a motion or some other event in the courtroom.


Separability Clause - Also Severability Clause. Provides that the balance of a statute or contract remains in force even if some provisions are voided.

Separate but Equal Doctrine - Now declared unconstitutional; based on the argument that different races have been given constitutionally permissible treatment if the separate facilities available to each are substantially equal.

Several Liability - Liability attaching to a party sufficient to support a suit without reference to anyone else's liability.

Severance of Actions - Judicial proceeding separating the claims by multiple parties to permit action on each one or some combination of them.

Show Cause Order - Judicial direction to appear in court and present reasons why the court should not take a certain action.

Silence of the Accused - Legal right of someone under arrest to refuse to speak; if the person refuses to enter a plea, the court will enter one of not guilty. The accused still must provide name, fingerprints, and handwriting and voice samples.

Silent Partner - Investor who does not manage a company but shares in profits and losses.

Situs - Generally, personal property has its taxable location in that state where owner of it is domiciled.

Slander - Injuring another person's reputation by false and derogatory spoken words.

Special Jurisdiction - Authorization of a court to deal only with a limited type of case, as a probate court; or with causes or proceedings specifically designated by statute.

Speedy Trial Act - Federal act of 1974 setting time limits for bringing federal criminal cases to trial.

Spin-Off - Subsidiary of a corporation organized by a parent corporation. Part of the assets of the parent are transferred to the subsidiary, whose stock is then transferred to the parent's shareholders without requiring that they give up any of their stock in the parent.

Split Gift - A gift made by a spouse to a third person that for purposes of gift tax may be considered as given one-half by each spouse to take advantage of tax avoidance devices (as the annual exclusion).

Spoliation - Destruction of evidence; or a significant alteration of a document.

Standard of Proof - Degree of proof required in a specific kind of case. In criminal law, it is proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and in the majority of civil cases it is proof by the preponderance of the evidence.

Stare Decisis - Refers to general policy of the courts not to overturn precedents established through litigation.

Statute -Generally, a law created by a legislature.

Stay - Court-ordered suspension of a judicial proceeding.

Strict Construction - Interpretation of the law that stays as close as possible to the literal meaning of the words.

Strict Liability - Doctrine that holds defendants liable for harm caused by their actions regardless of their intentions or lack of negligence or fault. Often applied to manufacturers or sellers of defective products.

Subornation of Perjury - Procuring someone to make a false statement under oath; see perjury.

Subpoena - Formal command to a person to appear at a certain place and time.

Subrogation - Substitution of one person for another, giving the substitute the same legal rights as the original entity. For example, an insurance company may have the same right to sue anyone whom the person it has compensated had the right to sue.

Substantive Law - Creates, defines and regulates rights, as opposed to law that prescribes enforcement of these rights and compensation for injuries to them.

Substitutional Gift - A gift to a legatee or devisee in substitution for another devisee or legatee who cannot take under the will (as because of death).

Subversive Activities - Federal crimes, such as treason or sabotage, intended to overthrow the government.

Successor Liability -In corporate law, liability of a corporation for its predecessor's obligations.

Suit - Generally, a court action brought by one person against another seeking compensation for some injury or the enforcement of a right.

Summons -Formal document beginning a civil action or special proceeding; or document directed to a sheriff or other authorized person ordering him to serve it on the person named in it, who must appear at a certain time and place to respond to the action.

Sunset Law - Statute requiring administrative entities periodically to justify their continued existence to a legislature.

Sunshine Law - Requires governmental bodies to hold open meetings.

Suppression of Evidence - Judicial ruling to exclude illegally obtained evidence; or the crime of compounding a felony committed by an individual who refuses to give evidence in a criminal trial.

Surety - Person who undertakes to pay money or perform some act in place of someone else if that person does not meet his obligation.

Survival Statutes - Provision for a legal action to continue after the death of a person involved in the action.

Suspended Sentence - Criminal penalty imposed but not actually enforced.

Symbolic Speech - Conduct expressing opinions about a subject, such as hanging a dummy representing a politician. May or may not be protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.


Tainted - The product of an illegal procedure, as in tainted evidence.

Target Offense - Crime that is the goal of a conspiracy.

Target Witness - Person whose testimony an investigating body, such as a grand jury, particularly wants; or a witness before a grand jury against whom the government may seek an indictment.

Taxable Income - Income that is subject to taxation and is characterized by the accrual of some gain or benefit to the taxpayer: the total amount of income remaining as the basis of taxation for a given period after all allowable deductions have been applied to gross income.

Tax Deferred - Not taxable until a future date or event (as withdrawal or retirement).

Tax Shelter - An entity (as a partnership) or investment plan or arrangement whose principal purpose is the avoidance or evasion of income tax.

Technical Errors - Errors committed during a trial that have not prejudiced the losing party's rights and therefore are not grounds for reversal of the judgment.

Temporary Restraining Order - Short-term, emergency injunction; generally issued to prevent any change in the circumstances between two or more parties until the trial court can hear evidence.

Tender Offer - Takeover bid; offer to buy a company's stock made directly to its stockholders by another company.

Test Action - Also test case. Suit brought to establish a legal principle; or suit in which the decision will apply to several similar cases.

Testamentary Gift - A gift that does not become effective until the death of the donor.

Testate Succession - Acquisition of something through a will.

Testator or Testatrix - Person who has made a will or leaves a will at death.

Testimony - Evidence in a trial given by a witness under oath, either orally or in the written form of an affidavit or deposition.

Tipstaff - Court-appointed officer who serves the court in various ways while it is in session.

Tort - In civil law, wrong or injury committed against a person or property, with the exception of breach of contract.

Tort-Feasor - Person who has committed a tort.

Tortious - Having the quality of a tort.

Trademark - Words and/or symbols employed to identify the source of goods or services.

Trade Name - Name that distinguishes a business from its competitors.

Trade Secret -Something that gives a company a competitive advantage, such as technical information, that is kept confidential in the company.

Transcript - Official written copy of the proceedings in a hearing or trial.

Transfer Agent - Usually, agent named by a corporation to keep stockholder records and handle distribution of stocks and bonds.

Trespass - Broadly, unauthorized intrusion on someone's property or rights; criminal trespass occurs when trespassers know they aren't permitted to enter or remain on the property.

Trial Calendar - List maintained by clerk of court or trial judge, including trial dates, counsels' names and other specifics of cases to be tried.

Trial Court - Court where litigation is first held, as opposed to appellate court, where appeals of decisions made in trial courts are heard.

True Bill - Indictment made by a grand jury.

Trust - Broadly, assets held by someone, called a trustee, for the benefit of another person. In a grantor trust, the person establishing the trust retains control of the assets.


Undue Influence - Abuse of position of trust or authority to persuade a person to do or refrain from doing something to the advantage of the person exerting the influence.

Unified Credit - A tax credit applied against the unified transfer tax that is a cumulative credit gradually reduced by the amount of credit allowed for gifts made in preceding calendar periods.

Unified Transfer Tax - A tax imposed under the Internal Revenue Code on the cumulative total of gifts made over a certain amount by a person during his or her lifetime or after death.

Uniform Commercial Code (U.C.C.) - One of Uniform Laws drafted by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws and the American Law Institute; governs commercial transactions. It has been adopted in whole or substantial part by all U.S. states.

United States Code - Multi-volume compilation of federal statutes in force; new edition is published every six years, with cumulative supplements issued in the intervening years.

United States Code Annotated - includes notes on state and federal case decisions, cross references and other information.

United States Reports - Official printed record of U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

Unitrust - A trust from which a fixed percentage of the net fair market value of the trust’s assets valued annually is paid each year to the beneficiary.

Usury - Charging a borrower more than the maximum legal interest rate on a loan.


Vacate - Set an order or decision aside or render it void.

Variance - Authorized departure from some regulation or ordinance. For example, authorization to use property for a purpose normally prohibited by a zoning ordinance.

Venue - Broadly, county or other geographical area where a court hears a case; usually the same as the area where the event leading to the trial occurred. A change of venue for the trial may occur if negative publicity or other causes would make it difficult to find unbiased jurors.

Verdict -Decision by a jury in the case submitted to it.

Victimless Crime - Criminal act that doesn't directly injure another person. For example, possessing illegal drugs for a person's own use.

Viz - Namely; that is to say. Contraction of Latin videlicet.

Void - Without legal force.


Waiver - Knowing and voluntary relinquishing by a person of the right to something.

Willful Negligence - Intentional performance of an unreasonable act in disregard of a known risk, making it highly probable that harm will be caused.

Workout - Debtor's out-of-court negotiation with creditors leading to agreement for a payment or plan to discharge the debtor's debt.

Writ -Broadly, a court-issued order requiring the performance of some act or granting authority to have it done.

Wrongful Death Statutes - Provide the means for a representative of a dead person to bring suit alleging the death was caused by someone's willful or negligent act, and to seek compensation for spouse, child or other beneficiary.


Year and a Day Rule - States that a person's death can't be held to have been caused by a defendant's action if the death occurs later than a year and a day after an injury caused by the defendant.