Glossary of Legal Terms

Abstract of Title – A chronological summary of all official records and recorded documents affecting the title to a parcel of real property.

Accomplice – A partner in a crime or a person who knowingly and voluntarily participates with another in a criminal activity.

Acknowledgment – The short declaration at the end of a legal paper showing that the paper was duly executed and acknowledged.

Acquittal – A jury verdict that a criminal defendant is not guilty or the finding of a judge that the evidence is insufficient to support a conviction.

Administrator – Is the one who administers the estate of a person who dies without a will.

Admissible – Evidence that can be legally and properly introduced in a civil or criminal trial.

Affidavit – A written statement of facts confirmed by the oath of the party making it, before a notary or officer having authority to administer oaths.

Aid and Abet – To actively, knowingly or intentionally assist another person in the commission or attempted commission of a crime.

Allegation – A statement of the issues in a written document, which a person is prepared to prove in court.

Amendment – An Amendment is used to make alterations to existing contracts or agreements between two or more parties. The original agreement remains in effect, but one or more changes are made to the terms of the agreement.

Answer – The formal written statement by a defendant in a civil case that responds to a complaint, articulating the grounds for defense. The defendant's response to the plaintiff’s allegations as stated in a complaint.

Appeal – A request made after a trial by a party that has lost on one or more issues that a higher court review the decision to determine if it was correct.

Appearance – The formal proceeding by which a defendant submits to the jurisdiction of the court and a written notification to the plaintiff by an attorney stating that they are representing the defendant.

Arbitration – A form of alternative dispute resolution in which the parties bring their dispute to a neutral third party and agree to abide by his or her decision.

Arraignment – A proceeding in which an individual who is accused of committing a crime is brought into court and told of the charges and asked to plead guilty or not guilty.

Arrest – To be taken into custody by law enforcement.

Articles of Incorporation – The Articles of Incorporation describe the basic structure of a corporation and are required to be filed with the Secretary of State by the individuals organizing the corporation.

Assault – The threat to inflict injury with an apparent ability to do so by any intentional display of force that would give the victim reason to fear or expect immediate bodily harm.

Assignment – An Assignment is used to transfer all or part of one’s interest or rights in personal property to another person.

Attachment – Is taking a person's property or assets to satisfy a court-ordered debt.

Attorney-at-Law – An advocate, counsel, or official agent employed by a plaintiff or defendant in preparing, managing, and trying cases in the courts.

Attorney-in-Fact – A private person authorized by another to act in his or her place, either for some particular purpose, as to do a specific act, or for the transaction of business in general, not of legal character. This authority is conferred by an instrument in writing called a power of attorney.

Automatic stay – An injunction that automatically stops lawsuits, foreclosures, garnishments, and most collection activities against the debtor the moment a bankruptcy petition is filed.

Bail – The release, prior to trial, of a person accused of a crime, under specified conditions designed to assure that person's appearance in court when required. The money or other security provided to the court to temporarily allow a person's release from jail and assure their appearance in court. "Bail" and "bond" are often used interchangeably.

Bail Bond – An obligation signed by the accused to secure his or her presence at the trial. This obligation means that the accused may lose money by not properly appearing for the trial.

Bailiff – A court attendant who keeps order in the courtroom and has custody of the jury.

Bankruptcy – A legal procedure for dealing with debt problems of individuals and businesses; It Refers to statutes and judicial proceedings involving persons or businesses that cannot pay their debts and seek the assistance of the court in getting a fresh start. Under the protection of the bankruptcy court, debtors may be released from or "discharged" from their debts, perhaps by paying a portion of each debt.

Battery – a beating or wrongful physical violence. The actual threat to use force is an assault; the use of it is a battery, which usually includes an assault.

Bench Warrant – An order issued by a judge for the arrest of a person.

Beneficiary – Someone named to receive property or benefits in a will.

Bequests – To give a gift to someone through a will.

Bill of Sale – A Bill of Sale is used to transfer the ownership of property form a seller to a purchaser. The Bill of Sale also acts as a sales receipt.

Bill of Particulars – A statement of the details of the charge made against the defendant.

Booking – The process of photographing, fingerprinting, and recording identifying data of a suspect. This process follows the arrest.

Brief – A written statement submitted in a trial or appellate proceeding that explains one side's legal and factual arguments.

Burden of Proof – The necessity or duty of affirmatively proving a fact or facts in dispute on an issue raised between the parties in a lawsuit. The responsibility of proving a point (the burden of proof) is not the same as the standard of proof.

Capital offense – A crime punishable by death.

Case Law – Law established by previous decisions of the courts, particularly the Supreme Court.

Cause – A lawsuit, litigation, or action. Any question, civil or criminal, litigated or contested before a court of justice.

Cause of action – The facts that give rise to a lawsuit or a legal claim.

Caveat – A warning or a note of caution.

Cease and Desist Letter – A Cease and Desist Letter is used to demand that a person or company cease any unwanted action or behavior. For example, it can be used to demand a person or company cease violating your copyright or to demand a creditor to stop harassing you.

Certification – A written attestation or authorized declaration verifying that an instrument is a true and correct copy of the original.

Challenge – An objection when an attorney objects at a hearing to the seating of a particular person on a civil or criminal jury.

Chambers – A judge's private office or a hearing in chambers takes place in the judge's office outside of the presence of the jury and the public.

Change of Venue – Moving a lawsuit or criminal trial to another place for trial.

Chapter 7 – The chapter of the Bankruptcy Code providing for "liquidation," that is, the sale of a debtor's nonexempt property and the distribution of the proceeds to creditors. In order to be eligible for Chapter 7, the debtor must satisfy a "means test." The court will evaluate the debtor's income and expenses to determine if the debtor may proceed under Chapter 7.

Chapter 11 – A reorganization bankruptcy, usually involving a corporation or partnership. A Chapter 11 debtor usually proposes a plan of reorganization to keep its business alive and pay creditors over time. Individuals or people in business can also seek relief in Chapter 11.

Chapter 13 – The chapter of the Bankruptcy Code providing for the adjustment of debts of an individual with regular income, often referred to as a "wage-earner" plan. Chapter 13 allows a debtor to keep property and use his or her disposable income to pay debts over time, usually three to five years.

Circumstantial Evidence – All evidence except eyewitness testimony. One example is physical evidence, such as fingerprints, from which an inference can be drawn.

Civil Actions – Noncriminal cases in which one private individual or business sues another to protect, enforce, or redress private or civil rights.

Civil Procedure – The rules and process by which a civil case is tried and appealed, including the preparations for trial, the rules of evidence and trial conduct, and the procedure for pursuing appeals.

Class Action – A lawsuit in which one or more members of a large group of individuals or other entities sue on behalf of the entire group. The district court must find that the claims of the class members contain questions of law or fact in common before the lawsuit can proceed as a class action.

Clemency – Act of grace or mercy by the president or governor to ease the consequences of a criminal act, accusation, or conviction. It may take the form of commutation or pardon.

Closing Argument – The closing statement, by counsel, to the trier of facts after all parties have concluded their presentation of evidence.

Codicil – An amendment to a will.

Cohabitation Agreement – A Cohabitation Agreement is a written agreement between parties who live together in a shared residence which governs their rights and obligations.

Commit – To send a person to an asylum or reformatory by a court order.

Common Law – The legal system that originated in England and is now in use in the United States. It is based on judicial decisions rather than legislative action.

Commute – The reduction of a sentence, as from death to life imprisonment.

Community service – A special condition the court imposes that requires an individual to work without pay for a civic or nonprofit organization.

Comparative Negligence – A legal doctrine by which acts of the opposing parties are compared to determine the liability of each party to the other.

Compensation Agreement – A Compensation Agreement is a legal contract between an employer and an employee where an employer agrees to pay certain compensation to the employee in exchange for services rendered.

Complainant – The party who complains or sues or the one who applies to the court for legal damages.

Complaint – A written statement that begins a civil lawsuit, in which the plaintiff details the claims against the defendant or a formal written charge that a person has committed a criminal offense.

Concurrent Sentences – Sentences for more than one crime that is to be served at the same time, rather than one after the other. See also cumulative sentences.

Condemnation – The legal process by which the government takes private land for public use, paying the owners a fair price.

Confidentiality/Non-Disclosure Agreement – A Confidentiality / Non-Disclosure Agreement protects your confidential business information or inventions revealed during discussions, proposals or negotiations with another party. It also protects against disclosure to third parties of information not already in the public.

Consecutive Sentences – Successive sentences with one beginning at the expiration of another and imposed against a person convicted of two or more violations.

Conservatorship – Legal right given to a person to manage the property and financial affairs of a person deemed incapable of doing that for them.

Contempt of Court – The willful disobedience of a judge's command or of an official court order.

Continuance – Postponement of a legal proceeding to a later date.

Contract – A legally enforceable agreement between two or more competent parties made either orally or in writing.

Contributory Negligence – A legal doctrine that says if the plaintiff in a civil action for negligence also was negligent, he or she cannot recover damages from the defendant for the defendant's negligence.

Conviction – A judgment of guilt against a criminal defendant.

Counsel – Legal adviser is a term used to refer to attorneys in a case.

Count – An allegation in an indictment or information, charging a defendant with a crime. An indictment or information may contain allegations that the defendant committed more than one crime. Each allegation is referred to as a count.

Counterclaim – A claim made by the defendant in a civil lawsuit against the plaintiff.

Court – Government entity authorized to resolve legal disputes. Judges sometimes use "court" to refer to themselves in the third person, as in "the court has read the briefs."

Court Costs – The expenses of prosecuting or defending a lawsuit, other than the attorneys' fees.

Court Reporter – A person who makes a record of what is said in court and produces a transcript of the proceedings upon request.

Cross Examination – The questioning of a witness produced by the other side.

Custody – Detaining of a person by lawful process or authority to assure his or her appearance to any hearing; the jailing or imprisonment of a person convicted of a crime.

Damages – Money awarded by a court to a person injured by the unlawful act or negligence of another person. Money that a defendant pays a plaintiff in a civil case if the plaintiff has won. Damages may be compensatory (for loss or injury) or punitive (to punish).

Debtor – A person who has filed a petition for relief under the Bankruptcy Code.

Decision – The judgment reached or given by a court of law.

Declaratory Judgment – A judgment of the court that explains what the existing law is or expresses the opinion of the court without the need for enforcement.

Decree – An order of the court. A final decree is one that fully and finally disposes of the litigation. An interlocutory decree is a preliminary order that often disposes of only part of a lawsuit.

Deed of Trust – A Deed of Trust is a document that allows a borrower to transfer the legal title of its property to a trustee who holds the property in trust as security for the payment of the debt to the lender. If the borrower defaults, the trustee may sell the property at a public sale under the terms of the deed of trust.

Defamation – That which tends to injure a person’s reputation. Libel is published defamation, whereas slander is spoken.

Default – A failure to respond to a lawsuit within the specified time.

Default Judgment – A judgment awarding a plaintiff the relief sought in the complaint because the defendant has failed to appear in court or otherwise respond to the complaint.

Defendant – In a civil case, the person or organization against whom the plaintiff brings suit; in a criminal case, the person accused of the crime. An individual (or business) against which a lawsuit is filed.

Demand Letter – A Demand Letter is a letter sent by certified mail to demand payment or some other action, which is in default. Essentially, a demand letter sets out why the payment or action is being claimed, how it should be carried out (e.g. payment in full, payment over time), and directions for the reply and a deadline for the reply.

De Novo – Latin, meaning anew. A trial de novo is a completely new trial. Appellate review de novo implies no deference to the trial judge's ruling.

Deposition – An oral statement made before an officer authorized by law to administer oaths. Such statements are often taken to examine potential witnesses, to obtain discovery, or to be used later in trial.

Discharge – A release of a debtor from personal liability for certain dischargeable debts. Notable exceptions to discharge are taxes and student loans. A discharge releases a debtor from personal liability for certain debts known as dischargeable debts and prevents the creditors owed those debts from taking any action against the debtor or the debtor's property to collect the debts.

Disclosure statement – A written document prepared by the chapter 11 debtor or other plan proponent that is designed to provide "adequate information" to creditors to enable them to evaluate the chapter 11 plan of reorganization.

Distribution Statutes – State laws that provide for the distribution of estate property of a person who dies without a will.

Disbarment – Form of discipline of a lawyer resulting in the loss (often permanently) of that lawyer's right to practice law. It differs from censure (an official reprimand or condemnation) and from suspension (a temporary loss of the right to practice law).

Disclaim – To refuse a gift made in a will.

Discovery – The pretrial process by which one party discovers the evidence that will be relied upon in the trial by the opposing party. Procedures used to obtain disclosure of evidence before trial.

Dismissal – The termination of a lawsuit. A dismissal without prejudice allows a lawsuit to be brought before the court again at a later time. In contrast, a dismissal with prejudice prevents the lawsuit from being brought before a court in the future.

Dismissal with prejudice – A Court action that prevents an identical lawsuit from being filed.

Dismissal without prejudice – A Court action that allows the later filing.

Dissent – To disagree. An appellate court opinion setting forth the minority view and outlining the disagreement of one or more judges with the decision of the majority.

Disposable income – Income not reasonably necessary for the maintenance or support of the debtor or dependents. If the debtor operates a business, disposable income is defined as those amounts over and above what is necessary for the payment of ordinary operating expenses.

Diversion – The process of removing some minor criminal, traffic, or juvenile cases from the full judicial process, on the condition that the accused undergo some sort of rehabilitation or make restitution for damages.

Divorce (Uncontested) – A Divorce (Uncontested) package is intended for couples who are seeking an uncontested divorce. If you can agree on all of the issues, including child custody, child support, spousal support and property division then our package is suitable for you. Our easy-to-follow, fully automated system will ensure your state specific documents are completed to your satisfaction.

Docket – A list of cases to be heard by a court or a log containing brief entries of court proceedings. A log containing the complete history of each case in the form of brief chronological entries summarizing the court proceedings.

Domicile – The place where a person has his or her permanent legal home. A person may have several residences, but only one domicile.

Double Jeopardy – Putting a person on trial more than once for the same crime. It is forbidden by the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Due process – In criminal law, the constitutional guarantee that a defendant will receive a fair and impartial trial, adequate notice, assistance of counsel, the rights to remain silent, a speedy and public trial, an impartial jury, and to confront and secure witnesses. In civil law, the legal rights of someone who confronts an adverse action threatening liberty or property. The right of all persons to receive the guarantees and safeguards of the law and the judicial process.

Elements of a Crime – The specific factors that define a crime which the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt in order to obtain a conviction. The elements that must be proven are that a crime has actually occurred, that the accused intended the crime to happen, and a timely relationship between the first two factors.

Eminent Domain – The power of the government to take private property for public use through condemnation.

Employment Contract – An Employment Contract sets out the terms on which you are hiring an individual or company.

Enjoining – An order by the court telling a person to stop performing a specific act.

Entrapment – A defense to criminal charges alleging that agents of the government induced a person to commit a crime he or she otherwise would not have committed.

Equitable – Pertaining to civil suits in "equity" rather than in "law." In English legal history, the courts of "law" could order the payment of damages and could afford no other remedy (see damages). A separate court of "equity" could order someone to do something or to cease to do something (e.g., injunction).

Equity – Generally, justice or fairness. Historically, equity refers to a separate body of law developed in England in reaction to the inability of the common-law courts, in their strict adherence to rigid writs and forms of action, to consider or provide a remedy for every injury.

Escheat – The process by which a deceased person's property goes to the state if no heir can be found.

Escrow – Money or a written instrument such as a deed that, by agreement between two parties, is held by a neutral third party (held in escrow) until all conditions of the agreement are met.

Estate – An estate consists of personal property, real property, and intangible property, such as stock certificates and bank accounts, owned in the individual name of a person at the time of the persons death. It does not include life insurance proceeds unless the estate was made the beneficiary) or other assets that pass outside the estate.

Estate Tax – Generally, a tax on the privilege of transferring property to others after a person's death. In addition to federal estate taxes, many states have their own estate taxes.

Estoppel – A person's own act, or acceptance of facts, which preclude his or her later making claims to the contrary.

Et al – Is used when needed to state “and others”.

Eviction Notice – The Eviction & Lease Notices include all the basic notices that both landlords and tenants may need to provide each other during the tenancy and to end the Lease.

Evidence – Information presented in testimony or in documents that is used to persuade the fact finder (judge or jury) to decide the case for one side or the other.

Exempt Property – In bankruptcy proceedings, this refers to certain property protected by law from the reach of creditors.

Exceptions – Declarations by either side in a civil or criminal case reserving the right to appeal a judge's ruling upon a motion. Also, in regulatory cases, objections by either side to points made by the other side or to rulings by the agency or one of its hearing officers.

Exclusionary Rule – The rule preventing illegally obtained evidence to be used in any trial. Any evidence obtained in violation of a criminal defendant's constitutional or statutory rights is not admissible at trial.

Exculpatory evidence – Evidence indicating that a defendant did not commit the crime.

Execute – To complete the legal requirements that make a will valid. Also, to execute a judgment or decree means to put the final judgment of the court into effect.

Executor – A personal representative, named in a will, who administers an estate.

Exempt assets – Property that a debtor is allowed to retain, free from the claims of creditors who do not have liens on the property.

Exemptions, exempt property – Certain property owned by an individual debtor that the Bankruptcy Code or applicable state law permits the debtor to keep from unsecured creditors.

Exhibit – A document or other item introduced as evidence during a trial or hearing.

Exonerate – Removal of a charge, responsibility or duty.

Ex Parte – On behalf of only one party, without notice to any other party.

Extenuating Circumstances – Circumstances which render a crime less aggravated, heinous, or reprehensible than it would otherwise be.

Expunge – Official and formal erasure of a record or partial contents of a record.

Extradition – The process by which one state or country surrenders to another state, a person accused or convicted of a crime in the other state.

Family Allowance – A small amount of money set aside from the estate of the deceased. Its purpose is to provide for the surviving family members during the administration of the estate.

Felony – A crime of a serious nature than a misdemeanor, usually punishable by imprisonment in a penitentiary for more than a year and/or substantial fines.

Fiduciary – A person having a legal relationship of trust and confidence to another and having a duty to act primarily for the others benefit, e.g., a guardian, trustee, or executor.

File – To place a paper in the official custody of the clerk of court/court administrator to enter into the files or records of a case.

Finding – Formal conclusion by a judge or regulatory agency on issues of fact. Also, a conclusion by a jury regarding a fact.

Fraud – Intentional deception to deprive another person of property or to injure that person in some other way.

Fraudulent transfer – A transfer of a debtor's property made with intent to defraud or for which the debtor receives less than the transferred property's value.

Garnishment – A legal proceeding in which a debtor's money, in the possession of another (called the garnishee), is applied to the debts of the debtor, such as when an employer garnishes a debtor's wages.

Good Time – A reduction in sentenced time in prison as a reward for good behavior. It usually is one third to one half off the maximum sentence.

Grand Jury – A body of persons sworn to inquire into crime and if appropriate, bring accusations indictments against the suspected criminals. A body of 16-23 citizens who listen to evidence of criminal allegations, which is presented by the prosecutors, and determine whether there is probable cause to believe an individual committed an offense.

Grantor or Settlor – The person who sets up a trust.

Guardian – A person appointed by will or by law to assume responsibility for incompetent adults or minor children. If a parent dies, this will usually be the other parent. If both die, it probably will be a close relative.

Guardianship – Legal right given to a person to be responsible for the food, housing, health care, and other necessities of a person deemed incapable of providing these necessities for them. A guardian also may be given responsibility for the person's financial affairs, and thus perform additionally as a conservator.

Habeas Corpus – Latin, meaning "you have the body." A writ of habeas corpus generally is a judicial order forcing law enforcement authorities to produce a prisoner they are holding, and to justify the prisoner's continued confinement. Federal judges receive petitions for a writ of habeas corpus from state prison inmates who say their state prosecutions violated federally protected rights in some way.

Hearsay – Evidence presented by a witness who did not see or hear the incident in question but heard about it from someone else. With some exceptions, hearsay generally is not admissible as evidence at trial.

Home confinement – A special condition the court imposes that requires an individual to remain at home except for certain approved activities such as work and medical appointments. Home confinement may include the use of electronic monitoring equipment - a transmitter attached to the wrist or the ankle - to help ensure that the person stays at home as required.

Hostile Witness - A witness whose testimony is not favorable to the party who calls him or her as a witness. A hostile witness may be asked leading questions and may be cross-examined by the party who calls him or her to the stand.

Hung Jury – A jury whose members cannot agree upon a verdict.

Incarcerate – To confine in jail.

Immunity – Grant by the court, which assures someone will not face prosecution in return for providing criminal evidence.

Impeachment – An attack on the credibility of a witness, through evidence introduced for that purpose or the constitutional process whereby the House of Representatives may "impeach" (accuse of misconduct) high officers of the federal government, who are then tried by the Senate.

Inadmissible – That which, under the rules of evidence, cannot be admitted or received as evidence.

In Camera – In chambers, or in private. A hearing in camera takes place in the judge's office outside of the presence of the jury and the public. Latin, meaning in a judge's chambers.

Inculpatory evidence – Evidence indicating that a defendant did commit the crime.

Independent Executor – A special kind of executor, permitted by the laws of certain states, who performs the duties of an executor without intervention by the court.

Indeterminate Sentence – A sentence of imprisonment to a specified minimum and maximum period of time, specifically authorized by statute, subject to termination by a parole board or other authorized agency after the prisoner has served the minimum term.

Indictment – The formal charge issued by a grand jury stating that there is enough evidence that the defendant committed the crime to justify having a trial; it is used primarily for felonies. A written accusation by a grand jury charging a person with a crime.

Indigent – Needy or impoverished. A defendant who can demonstrate his or her indigence to the court may be assigned a court-appointed attorney at public expense.

Information – A formal accusation by a government attorney that the defendant committed a misdemeanor. Accusatory document, filed by the prosecutor, detailing the charges against the defendant. An alternative to an indictment, it serves to bring a defendant to trial.

Infraction – A violation of law not punishable by imprisonment. Minor traffic offenses generally are considered infractions.

Inheritance Tax – A state tax on property that an heir or beneficiary under a will receives from a deceased person's estate. The heir or beneficiary pays this tax.

Initial Appearance – In criminal law, the hearing at which a judge determines whether there is sufficient evidence against a person charged with a crime to hold him or her for trial. The Constitution bans secret accusations, so initial appearances are public unless the defendant asks otherwise; the accused must be present, though he or she usually does not offer evidence.

Injunction – A court order preventing one or more named parties from taking some action. A preliminary injunction often is issued to allow fact-finding, so a judge can determine whether a permanent injunction is justified.

Instructions – Judge's explanation to the jury before it begins deliberations of the questions it must answer and the applicable law governing the case.

Intangible Assets – Nonphysical items such as stock certificates, bonds, bank accounts, and pension benefits that have value and must be taken into account in estate planning.

Interlocutory – An interlocutory order or an interlocutory appeal concerns only a part of the issues raised in a lawsuit.

Interrogatories – Written questions asked by one party in a lawsuit for which the opposing party must provide written answers. A form of discovery consisting of written questions to be answered in writing and under oath.

Intervention – An action by which a third person who may be affected by a lawsuit is permitted to become a party to the suit.

Intestacy Laws – See descent and distribution statutes.

Intestate – Dying without a will.

Irrevocable Trust – A trust that once set up, the grantor may not revoke.

Issue – The disputed point in a disagreement between parties in a lawsuit or to send out officially, as in to issue an order.

Joint Liability – A legal doctrine that makes each of the parties who are responsible for an injury, liable for all the damages awarded in a lawsuit if the other parties responsible cannot pay.

Joint Tenancy – A form of legal co-ownership of property. At the death of one co-owner, the surviving co-owner becomes sole owner of the property. Tenancy by the entirety is a special form of joint tenancy between a husband and wife.

Judge – An official of the judicial branch with authority to decide lawsuits brought before courts. Used generically, the term judge may also refer to all judicial officers, including Supreme Court justices. An elected or appointed public official with authority to hear and decide cases in a court of law.

Judgment – The final disposition of a lawsuit. Default judgment is a judgment rendered because of the defendant's failure to answer or appear. Summary judgment is a judgment given on the basis of pleadings, affidavits, and exhibits presented for the record without any need for a trial. It is used when there is no dispute as to the facts of the case and one party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.

Jurisdiction – The legal authority of a court to hear and decide a case. Concurrent jurisdiction exists when two courts have simultaneous responsibility for the same case or the geographic area over which the court has authority to decide cases.

Jurisprudence – The study of law and the structure of the legal system.

Jury – Persons selected according to law and sworn to inquire into and declare a verdict on matters of fact. The group of persons selected to hear the evidence in a trial and render a verdict on matters of fact.

Land Contract – A Land Contract (or Contract for Deed) is a contract between a seller and buyer of real property, where the seller provides the financing.

Larceny – Obtaining property by fraud or deceit.

Last Will and Testament – A Last Will and Testament gives you the ability to protect your loved ones and to decide what happens to your estate and children after your death.

Law – The combination of those rules and principles of conduct promulgated by legislative authority, derived from court decisions and established by local custom.

Lawsuit – A legal action started by a plaintiff against a defendant based on a complaint that the defendant failed to perform a legal duty which resulted in harm to the plaintiff.

Leading Question – A question that suggests the answer desired of the witness. A party generally may not ask one's own witness leading questions. Leading questions may be asked only of hostile witnesses and on cross-examination.

Lease Agreement – A Residential Rental/Lease Agreement creates a residential tenancy between a landlord and a tenant.

Legal Aid – Professional legal services available usually to persons or organizations unable to afford such services.

Leniency – Recommendation for a sentence less than the maximum allowed.

Letter of Intent – Letter of Intent provides a non-binding document for two or more parties to form an understanding for a future agreement.

Letters of Administration – Legal document issued by a court that shows an administrator's legal right to take control of assets in the deceased person's name.

Letters Testamentary – Legal document issued by a court that shows an executor's legal right to take control of assets in the deceased person's name.

Liable – When a person is legally responsible.

Libel – Published words or pictures that falsely and maliciously defame a person. Libel is published defamation; slander is spoken.

Lien – A charge on specific property that is designed to secure payment of a debt or performance of an obligation. A debtor may still be responsible for a lien after a discharge.

Limited Jurisdiction – Refers to courts that are limited in the types of criminal and civil cases they may hear. For example, traffic violations generally are heard by limited jurisdiction courts.

Liquidation – The sale of a debtor's property with the proceeds to be used for the benefit of creditors.

Litigation – A case, controversy, or lawsuit. Participants (plaintiffs and defendants) in lawsuits are called litigants.

Litigant – A party to a lawsuit. Litigation refers to a case, controversy, or lawsuit.

Living Trust – A trust set up and in effect during the lifetime of the grantor.

Living Will – A Living Will allows you to convey wishes regarding medical treatment. It contains specific directions on the course of action you would or would not like to take if you are in a terminal condition, a permanent coma, or a persistent vegetative state.

Magistrate – Judicial officer exercising some of the functions of a judge. It also refers in a general way to a judge.

Malicious Prosecution – An action instituted with intention of injuring the defendant and without probable cause, and which terminates in favor of the person prosecuted.

Manslaughter – The unlawful killing of another without intent to kill; either voluntary (upon a sudden impulse); or involuntary (during the commission of an unlawful act not ordinarily expected to result in great bodily harm).

Medical Records Release – A Medical Records Release allows for the release and sharing of a patient's confidential medical and health information with authorized individuals and organizations.

Mediation – A form of alternative dispute resolution in which the parties bring their dispute to a neutral third party, who helps them agree on a settlement.

Miranda rights – Requirement that police tell a suspect in their custody of his or her constitutional rights before they question a person.

Misdemeanor – A criminal offense considered less serious than a felony. Misdemeanors generally are punishable by a fine or a limited local jail term, but not by imprisonment in a state penitentiary.

Mistrial – An invalid trial, caused by fundamental error. When a mistrial is declared, the trial must start again from the selection of the jury.

Mitigating Circumstances – Those which do not constitute a justification or excuse for an offense but which may be considered as reasons for reducing the degree of blame.

Motion – Oral or written request made by a party to an action before, during, or after a trial, upon which a court issues a ruling or order.

Murder – The unlawful killing of a human being with deliberate intent to kill. Murder in the first degree is characterized by premeditation; murder in the second degree is characterized by a sudden and instantaneous intent to kill or to cause injury without caring whether the injury kills or not.

Negligence – Failure to exercise the degree of care that a reasonable person would exercise under the same circumstances.

No-Contest Clause – Language in a will that provides that a person who makes a legal challenge to the will's validity will be disinherited.

No-Fault Proceedings – A civil case in which parties may resolve their dispute without a formal finding of error or fault.

Notice to Quit – Notice to Quit is used by the Landlord to terminate a lease when the Tenant has - Failed to pay rent within the required time after it was due.

Notice of Intent to Vacate – A Notice of Intent to Vacate Premises is used when the Tenant (under a fixed term) wants to give notice to the Landlord that the Tenant plans to vacate the Premises at the end of the notice period.

No contest – A plea of nolo contendere has the same effect as a plea of guilty, as far as the criminal sentence is concerned, but may not be considered as an admission of guilt for any other purpose.

Non-dischargeable debt – A debt that can’t be included or eliminated in bankruptcy filing. Examples include a home mortgage, debts for alimony or child support, certain taxes, debts for most government funded or guaranteed educational loans or benefit overpayments, debts arising from death or personal injury caused by driving while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, and debts for restitution or a criminal fine included in a sentence on the debtor's conviction of a crime.

Non-exempt assets – Property of a debtor that can be liquidated to satisfy claims of creditors.

Notice – Formal notification to the party that has been sued in a civil case of the fact that the lawsuit has been filed. Also, any form of notification of a legal proceeding.

Oath – Written or oral pledge by a person to keep a promise or speak the truth.

Objection – The process by which one party takes exception to some statement or procedure. An objection is either sustained (allowed) or overruled by the judge.

Offer to Purchase Real Estate – An Offer to Purchase Real Estate sets out the terms and conditions of an offer to purchase between the buyer and the seller in a real estate transaction.

Opening Statement – The initial statement made by attorneys for each side, outlining the facts each intends to establish during the trial.

Opinion – A judge's written explanation of the decision of the court. Because a case may be heard by three or more judges in the court of appeals, the opinion in appellate decisions can take several forms. If all the judges completely agree on the result, one judge will write the opinion for all. If all the judges do not agree, the formal decision will be based upon the view of the majority, and one member of the majority will write the opinion.

Order – A written or oral command from a court directing or forbidding an action.

Overrule – A judge's decision not to allow an objection or a decision by a higher court finding that a lower court decision was in error.

Pardon – A form of executive clemency preventing criminal prosecution or removing or extinguishing a criminal conviction.

Panel – In appellate cases, a group of judges (usually three) assigned to decide the case or in the jury selection process, the group of potential jurors.

Parole – The supervised conditional release of a prisoner before the expiration of his or her sentence. If the parolee observes the conditions, he or she need not serve the rest of his or her term.

Party – A person, business, or government agency actively involved in the prosecution or defense of a legal proceeding.

Patent – A government grant giving an inventor the exclusive right to make or sell his or her invention for a term of years.

Partnership Agreement – A Partnership Agreement provides a contract for two or more individuals or entities to form a business partnership.

Peremptory Challenge – A district court may grant each side in a civil or criminal trial the right to exclude a certain number of prospective jurors without cause or giving a reason.

Perjury – The criminal offense of making a false statement under oath.

Permanent Injunction – A court order requiring that some action be taken, or that some party refrain from taking action. It differs from forms of temporary relief, such as a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction.

Personal Property – Tangible physical property (such as cars, clothing, furniture, and jewelry) and intangible personal property. This does not include real property such as land or rights in land.

Personal Recognizance – In criminal proceedings, the pretrial release of a defendant without bail upon his or her promise to return to court. See also own recognizance.

Personal Representative – The person who administers an estate. If named in a will, that person's title is an executor. If there is no valid will, that person's title is an administrator.

Personal Guarantee – A Personal Guarantee is a collateral contract where an individual or corporation agrees to be responsible for the debt or obligations of an individual or company in the event that this individual or company defaults on its debt owed to a creditor.

Petition – The document that initiates the filing of a bankruptcy proceeding, setting forth basic information regarding the debtor, including name, address, chapter under which the case is filed, and estimated amount of assets and liabilities.

Petitioner – The person filing an action in a court of original jurisdiction or the person who appeals the judgment of a lower court. The opposing party is called the respondent.

Petty offense – A federal misdemeanor punishable by six months or less in prison.

Plan – A debtor's detailed description of how the debtor proposes to pay creditors' claims over a fixed period of time.

Plaintiff – The person who files the complaint in a civil lawsuit.

Plea – In a criminal proceeding, it is the defendant's declaration in open court that he or she is guilty or not guilty. The defendant's answer to the charges made in the indictment or information.

Plea Bargain – The process through which an accused person and a prosecutor negotiate a mutually satisfactory disposition of a case. Usually it is a legal transaction in which a defendant pleads guilty in exchange for some form of leniency. It often involves a guilty plea to lesser charges or a guilty plea to some of the charges if other charges are dropped.

Pleadings – The written statements of fact and law filed by the parties to a lawsuit.

Pour Over Will – A will that leaves some or all estate assets to a trust established before the will-maker's death.

Power of Attorney – A Power of Attorney is a document which gives another party the legal authority to act on your behalf in order to manage your legal and financial affairs. The power given can be very broad to allow complete control over all your finances and property, or it can be limited to a specific task. A Power of Attorney is crucial to have when planning for future incapacity or extended absences from home. A formal authorization of a person to act in the interests of another person.

Power of Attorney (Medical) – A Living Will allows you to convey wishes regarding medical treatment. It contains specific directions on the course of action you would or would not like to take if you are in a terminal condition, a permanent coma, or a persistent vegetative state. A Health Care Directive contains both a Living Will and a Medical Power of Attorney.

Precedent - A court decision in an earlier case with facts and legal issues similar to a dispute currently before a court. Judges will generally "follow precedent" - meaning that they use the principles established in earlier cases to decide new cases that have similar facts and raise similar legal issues. A judge will disregard precedent if a party can show that the earlier case was wrongly decided, or that it differed in some significant way from the current case.

Preponderance of the Evidence – Greater weight of the evidence, the common standard of proof in civil cases.

Presentment – Declaration or document issued by a grand jury that either makes a neutral report or notes misdeeds by officials charged with specified public duties. It ordinarily does not include a formal charge of crime. A presentment differs from an indictment.

Prenuptial Agreement – A Prenuptial Agreement is a contract entered into between two people who are about to marry. It sets out how assets will be distributed in the event of divorce or death. It can also be used to address other important matters to the couple about to be married such as rights to future spousal support, etc. A prenuptial agreement is normally used in situations where one or both parties - has significant wealth or expects to receive a large inheritance, has a personal business, wish to keep all assets and debts separate, were previously married, and/or have children from a previous relationship.

Pre-Trial Conference – A meeting between the judge and the lawyers involved in a lawsuit to narrow the issues in the suit, agree on what will be presented at the trial, and make a final effort to settle the case without a trial.

Priority – The Bankruptcy Code's statutory ranking of unsecured claims that determines the order in which unsecured claims will be paid if there is not enough money to pay all unsecured claims in full.

Priority claim – An unsecured claim that is entitled to be paid ahead of other unsecured claims that are not entitled to priority status. Priority refers to the order in which these unsecured claims are to be paid.

Probable Cause – A reasonable belief that a crime has or is being committed; the basis for all lawful searches, seizures, and arrests.

Probate – The court-supervised process by which a will is determined to be the will-maker's final statement regarding how the will-maker wants his or her property distributed. It also confirms the appointment of the personal representative of the estate. Probate also means the process by which assets are gathered; applied to pay debts, taxes, and expenses of administration; and distributed to those designated as beneficiaries in the will.

Probate Court – The court with authority to supervise estate administration.

Probate Estate – Estate property that may be disposed of by a will.

Probation – Sentencing option in the federal courts. With probation, instead of sending an individual to prison, the court releases the person to the community and orders him or her to complete a period of supervision monitored by a U.S. probation officer and to abide by certain conditions.

Probation officer – Officers of the probation office of a court. Probation officer duties include conducting presentence investigations, preparing presentence reports on convicted defendants, and supervising released defendants.

Pro Bono – For the public good. Lawyers representing clients without a fee are said to be working pro bono.

Procedure – The rules for conducting a lawsuit; there are rules of civil procedure, criminal procedure, evidence, bankruptcy, and appellate procedure.

Proof of claim – A written statement describing the reason a debtor owes a creditor money, which typically sets forth the amount of money owed.

Pro Se – A Latin term meaning "on one's own behalf"; in courts, it refers to persons who present their own cases without lawyers. Representing themself. Serving as one's own lawyer.

Prosecutor – A trial lawyer representing the government in a criminal case and the interests of the state in civil matters. In criminal cases, the prosecutor has the responsibility of deciding who and when to prosecute.

Prosecute – To charge someone with a crime. A prosecutor tries a criminal case on behalf of the government.

Promissory Note – A Promissory Note is an enforceable promise to pay back a loan or debt.

Proximate cause – The act that caused an event to occur. A person generally is liable only if an injury was proximately caused by his or her action or by his or her failure to act when he or she had a duty to act.

Public Defender – A lawyer who provides free legal defense services to a poor person accused of a crime.

Purchase Agreement – A Purchase Agreement is a contract where a seller promises to sell something that a purchaser promises to buy. A Purchase Agreement can be used to sell goods, assets, equipment, services, etc. A Bill of Sale is often used with a Purchase Agreement to conclude the sale and transfer the title to the purchaser.

Quash – To vacate or void a summons, subpoena, etc.

Quitclaim Deed – A Quitclaim Deed is used to transfer whatever interest or title a grantor may have in property, without providing a warranty as to full title in the property. Quitclaim Deeds are frequently used in transfers of property between people well-known to each other, such as family members or divorcing spouses.

Real Estate Purchase Agreement – A Real Estate Purchase Agreement is a sales agreement for completed homes. Real Estate Sale Agreement deals with new houses (construction completed). It contains additional disclosure forms, if required.

Real Property – Land, buildings, and other improvements affixed to the land.

Reaffirmation agreement – An agreement by a debtor to continue paying a dischargeable debt after the bankruptcy, usually for the purpose of keeping collateral or mortgaged property that would otherwise be subject to repossession.

Reasonable Doubt – An accused person is entitled to acquittal if, in the minds of the jury, his or her guilt has not been proved beyond a "reasonable doubt"; that state of minds of jurors in which they cannot say they feel an abiding conviction as to the truth of the charge.

Reasonable Person – A phrase used to denote a hypothetical person who exercises qualities of attention, knowledge, intelligence, and judgment that society requires of its members for the protection of their own interest and the interests of others

Rebut – Evidence disproving other evidence previously given or reestablishing the credibility of challenged evidence.

Record – A written account of the proceedings in a case, including all pleadings, evidence, and exhibits submitted in the course of the case.

Recuse – The process by which a judge is disqualified from hearing a case, on his or her own motion or upon the objection of either party.

Re-Direct Examination – Opportunity to present rebuttal evidence after one's evidence has been subjected to cross-examination.

Redemption – A procedure in a Chapter 7 case whereby a debtor removes a secured creditor's lien on collateral by paying the creditor the value of the property. The debtor may then retain the property.

Referee – A person, to whom the court refers a pending case to take testimony, hears the parties, and report back to the court. A referee is an officer with judicial powers who serves as an arm of the court.

Rehearing – Another hearing of a civil or criminal case by the same court in which the case was originally heard.

Release Agreement (Waiver) – A Release Agreement (Waiver) is an enforceable promise not to proceed with a legal claim in exchange for money or other compensation.

Remand – To send a dispute back to the court where it was originally heard. To send back to jail.

Remedy – Legal or judicial means by which a right or privilege is enforced or the violation of a right or privilege is prevented, redressed, or compensated.

Removal – The transfer of a state case to federal court for trial; in civil cases, because the parties are from different states; in criminal and some civil cases, because there is a significant possibility that there could not be a fair trial in state court.

Rental Agreement (Residential) – A Residential Rental/Lease Agreement creates a residential tenancy between a landlord and a tenant.

Rental Application (Residential) – A Residential Rental Application is used by landlords, lessees, and property managers to collect information on potential renters.

Reply – The response by a party to charges raised in a pleading by the other party.

Respondent – The person against whom an appeal is taken.

Rest – A party is said to rest or rest its case when it has presented all the evidence it intends to offer.

Restitution – Act of giving the equivalent for any loss, damage or injury.

Retainer – Act of the client in employing the attorney or counsel, and also denotes the fee which the client pays when he or she retains the attorney to act for them.

Return – A report to a judge by police on the implementation of an arrest or search warrant. Also, a report to a judge in reply to a subpoena, civil or criminal.

Reverse – The act of a court setting aside the decision of a lower court. A reversal is often accompanied by a remand to the lower court for further proceedings.

Reversible Error – A procedural error during a trial or hearing sufficiently harmful to justify reversing the judgment of a lower court.

Revocable Trust – A trust that the grantor may change or revoke.

Revoke – To cancel or nullify a legal document.

Revocation of Power of Attorney – A Revocation of Power of Attorney is a document used to cancel a previously granted power of attorney. The document must be signed by or on behalf of the person who granted the power.

Robbery – Felonious taking of another's property, from his or her person or immediate presence and against his or her will, by means of force or fear. It differs from larceny.

Rules of Evidence – Standards governing whether evidence in a civil or criminal case is admissible.

Sales Agreement – A Sales Agreement is a contract where a seller promises to sell something that a purchaser promises to buy. A Sales Agreement can be used to sell goods, assets, equipment, services, etc. A Bill of Sale is often used with a Sales Agreement to conclude the sale and transfer the title to the purchaser.

Sanction – A penalty or other type of enforcement used to bring about compliance with the law or with rules and regulations.

Satisfaction of Mortgage Agreement – A Satisfaction of Mortgage is used when the original debt was secured by a mortgage. It is a document used by the Mortgagee (lender) to acknowledge that the debt of the Mortgagor (borrower) has been paid in full. Upon the filing of the satisfaction of mortgage, the Mortgagee's lien should be cleared from the title deed.

Schedules – Lists submitted by the debtor along with the petition (or shortly thereafter) showing the debtor's assets, liabilities, and other financial information. (There are official forms a debtor must use.)

Search Warrant – A written order issued by a judge that directs a law enforcement officer to search a specific area for a particular piece of evidence.

Secured creditor – A secured creditor is an individual or business that holds a claim against the debtor that is secured by a lien on property of the estate. The property subject to the lien is the secured creditor's collateral.

Secured debt – Debt backed by a mortgage, pledge of collateral, or other lien; debt for which the creditor has the right to pursue specific pledged property upon default.

Self-Defense – Claim that an act otherwise criminal was legally justifiable because it was necessary to protect a person or property from the threat or action of another.

Self-Incrimination – The constitutional right of people to refuse to give testimony against them that could subject them to criminal prosecution. The right is guaranteed in the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Asserting the right is often referred to as taking the Fifth.

Sentence – The punishment ordered by a court for a defendant convicted of a crime. A concurrent sentence means that two or more sentences would run at the same time. A consecutive sentence means that two or more sentences would run one after another.

Separation Agreement – A Separation Agreement is used to divide any property and debts that you and your spouse have incurred, as well as provide for custody, visitation and support of any minor children of the relationship. Our Separation Agreement is ideal for separated couples looking to settle property and custody issues prior to a divorce judgment.

Sequester – To separate. Sometimes juries are separated from outside influences during their deliberations. For example, this may occur during a highly publicized trial.

Sequestration of Witnesses – Keeping all witnesses (except plaintiff and defendant) out of the courtroom except for their time on the stand, and cautioning them not to discuss their testimony with other witnesses.

Service – The delivery of a legal document, such as a complaint, summons, or subpoena, notifying a person of a lawsuit or other legal action taken against him or her. Service, which constitutes formal legal notice, must be made by an officially authorized person in accordance with the formal requirements of the applicable laws.

Service of process – The delivery of writs or summonses to the appropriate party.

Settlement – Parties to a lawsuit resolve their dispute without having a trial. Settlements often involve the payment of compensation by one party in at least partial satisfaction of the other party's claims, but usually do not include the admission of fault.

Settlor – The person who sets up a trust. Also called the grantor.

Shareholder Agreement – A Shareholder Agreement can be used to say how a corporation will be managed, how disputes will be resolved, what will happen on the death of a shareholder, and to prevent shareholders from competing with the corporation. Depending on your jurisdiction, it may be used to transfer the power to manage a corporation from the directors to the shareholders.

Slander – False and defamatory spoken words tending to harm another's reputation, business, or means of livelihood. Slander is spoken defamation; libel is published.

Small Claims Court – A court that handles civil claims for small amounts of money. People often represent themselves rather than hire an attorney.

Specific Performance – A remedy requiring a person who has breached a contract to perform specifically what he or she has agreed to do. Specific performance is ordered when damages would be inadequate compensation.

Spendthrift Trust – A trust set up for the benefit of someone who the grantor believes would be incapable of managing his or her own financial affairs.

Standing – The legal right to bring a lawsuit. Only a person with something at stake has standing to bring a lawsuit.

Statute – A law passed by a legislature.

Statute of Limitations – The time within which a plaintiff must begin a lawsuit (in civil cases) or a prosecutor must bring charges (in criminal cases). There are different statutes of limitations at both the federal and state levels for different kinds of lawsuits or crimes.

Statutory Construction – Process by which a court seeks to interpret the meaning and scope of legislation.

Statutory Law – Law enacted by the legislative branch of government, as distinguished from case law or common law.

Stay – A court order halting a judicial proceeding.

Stipulation – An agreement by attorneys on both sides of a civil or criminal case about some aspect of the case; e.g., to extend the time to answer, to adjourn the trial date, or to admit certain facts at the trial.

Strike – Highlighting in the record of a case, evidence that has been improperly offered and will not be relied upon.

Subordination – The act or process by which a person's rights or claims are ranked below those of others.

Subpoena – A command, issued under a court's authority, to a witness to appear and give testimony. A court order compelling a witness to appear and testify.

Sublease Agreement – A Residential Sublease Agreement is used to convey some or all of the property rights that a tenant has under a residential lease to a third party for a portion of the tenant's remaining term of the original lease.

Summary judgment – A decision made on the basis of statements and evidence presented for the record without a trial. It is used when it is not necessary to resolve any factual disputes in the case. Summary judgment is granted when - on the undisputed facts in the record - one party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

Summons – A notice to a defendant that he or she has been sued or charged with a crime and is required to appear in court. A jury summons requires the person receiving it to report for possible jury duty

Support Trust – A trust that instructs the trustee to spend only as much income and principal (the assets held in the trust) as needed for the beneficiary's support.

Suppress – To forbid the use of evidence at a trial because it is improper or was improperly obtained. See also exclusionary rule.

Supervised release – Term of supervision served after a person is released from prison. The court imposes supervised release during sentencing in addition to the sentence of imprisonment. U.S. probation officers supervise people on supervised release.

Surety Bond – A bond purchased at the expense of the estate to insure the executor's proper performance.

Survivorship – Another name for joint tenancy.

Sustain – A court ruling upholding an objection or a motion.

Temporary Relief – Any form of action by a court granting one of the parties an order to protect its interest pending further action by the court.

Temporary Restraining Order – A judge's order forbidding certain actions until a full hearing can be held. A judge's short-term order forbidding certain actions until a full hearing can be conducted. Usually of short duration and often referred to as a TRO.

Termination Agreement – A Termination Agreement provides a mechanism to conclude or discontinue an existing agreement.

Testator – Person who makes a will.

Testimony – The evidence given by a witness under oath orally by witnesses during trials. It does not include evidence from documents and other physical evidence.

Third Party – A person, business, or government agency not actively involved in a legal proceeding, agreement, or transaction.

Third-Party Claim – An action by the defendant that brings a third party into a lawsuit.

Title – Legal ownership of property, usually real property or automobiles.

Tort – An injury or wrong committed on the person or property of another. A tort is an infringement on the rights of an individual, but not founded on a contract. The most common tort action is a suit for damages sustained in an automobile accident. A civil, not criminal, wrong. A negligent or intentional injury against a person or property, with the exception of breach of contract.

Transfer – Any mode or means by which a debtor disposes of or parts with his/her property.

Transcript – A written, word-for-word record of what was said, either in a proceeding such as a trial, or during some other formal conversation, such as a hearing or oral deposition.

Trust – A legal device used to manage real or personal property, established by one person (the grantor or settlor) for the benefit of another (the beneficiary). A third person (the trustee) or the grantor manages the trust.

Trustee – The representative of the bankruptcy estate who exercises statutory powers, principally for the benefit of the unsecured creditors, under the general supervision of the court and the direct supervision of the U.S. trustee or bankruptcy administrator. The trustee is a private individual or corporation appointed in all chapter 7, chapter 12, and chapter 13 cases and some chapter 11 cases.

U.S. Attorney – A lawyer appointed by the President in each judicial district to prosecute and defend cases for the federal government. The U.S. Attorney employs a staff of Assistant U.S. Attorneys who appear as the government's attorneys in individual cases.

U.S. Trustee – An officer of the U.S. Department of Justice responsible for supervising the administration of bankruptcy cases, estates, and trustees; monitoring plans and disclosure statements; monitoring creditors' committees; monitoring fee applications; and performing other statutory duties.

Undue hardship – The most widely used test for evaluating undue hardship in the discharge ability of a student loan includes three conditions - (1) the debtor cannot maintain - based on current income and expenses - a minimal standard of living if forced to repay the loans; (2) there are indications that the state of affairs is likely to persist for a significant portion of the repayment period; and (3) the debtor made good faith efforts to repay the loans.

Unlawful Detainer – A detention of real estate without the consent of the owner or other person entitled to its possession.

Unsecured – In bankruptcy proceedings, for the purposes of filing a claim, a claim is unsecured if there is no collateral, or to the extent the value of collateral is less than the amount of the debt.

Unsecured claim – A claim or debt for which a creditor holds no special assurance of payment, such as a mortgage or lien; a debt for which credit was extended based solely upon the creditor's assessment of the debtor's future ability to pay.

Uphold – The appellate court agrees with the lower court decision and allows it to stand. See affirmed.

Usury – Charging a higher interest rate or higher fees than the law allows.

Vacate – To set aside. To vacate a judgment is to set aside that judgment.

Venue – The proper geographical area (county, city, or district) in which a court with jurisdiction over the subject matter may hear a case.

Verdict – A conclusion, as to fact or law that forms the basis for the court's judgment. A general verdict is a jury's finding for or against a plaintiff after determining the facts and weighing them according to the judge's instructions regarding the law. The decision of a trial jury or a judge that determines the guilt or innocence of a criminal defendant, or that determines the final outcome of a civil case.

Voluntary transfer – A transfer of a debtor's property with the debtor's consent.

Wage garnishment – A legal proceeding whereby a plaintiff or creditor seeks to subject to his or her claim the future wages of a debtor. In other words, the creditor seeks to have part of the debtor's future wages paid to the creditor for a debt owed to the creditor.

Warrant – Most commonly by a court order authorizing law enforcement officers to make an arrest or conduct a search. An affidavit seeking a warrant must establish probable cause by detailing the facts upon which the request is based.

Warranty Deed – A Warranty Deed is one in which the grantor fully warrants good clear title to the property, free from any encumbrances that are not listed on the deed. It is used in most real estate deed transfers, as it provides the greatest protection of any deed.

Will – A legal declaration that disposes of a person's property when that person dies.

Witness – A person called upon by either side in a lawsuit to give testimony before the court or jury.

Without Prejudice – A claim or cause dismissed without prejudice may be the subject of a new lawsuit.

With Prejudice – Applied to orders of judgment dismissing a case, meaning that the plaintiff is forever barred from bringing a lawsuit on the same claim or cause.

Witness – A person, who testifies to what they have seen, heard or otherwise experienced.

Writ – A written court order directing a person to take, or refrain from taking, a certain act.