Legal Dictionary


Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Abatement - A reduction in some amount that is owed, usually granted by the person to whom the debt is owed. For example, a "landlord" might grant an abatement in "rent". In "estate law", the word may refer more specifically to a situation where property identified in a "will" cannot be given to the beneficiary because it had to be sold to pay off the deceased debts. Debts are paid before gifts made in wills are distributed and where a specific gift has to be sold to pay off a debt, it is said to "abate" (compare with "adempt"").

Ab initio - From the beginning. From the inception.

Acceleration clause - A clause in a contract that states that if a payment is missed, or some other default occurs (such as the debtor becoming "insolvent"), then the contract is fully due immediately. This is a typical clause in a loan contract; miss one payment and the agreement to pay at regular intervals is voided and the entire amount becomes due and payable immediately.

Acceptance - One of three requisites to a valid "contract" under common law (the other two being an "offer" and  "consideration"). A contract is a legally binding agreement between two or more parties which starts with an offer from one person but which does not become a contract until the other party signifies an unequivocal willingness to accept the terms of that offer. The moment of acceptance is the moment from which a contract is said to exist, and not before. Acceptance need not always be direct and can, in certain circumstances, be implied by conduct (see "acquiescence" below).

Accord and Satisfaction - A term of contract law by which one party, having complied with its obligation under a contract, accepts some type of compensation from the other party (usually money and of a lesser value) in lieu of enforcing the contract and holding the other party to their obligation. This discharges the contract. The definition cited by lawyers is usually that found in British Russian Gazette & Trade Outlook Ltd. v. Associated Newspapers Ltd. (1933) 2 K.B. 616: "Accord and satisfaction is the purchase of a release from an obligation arising under contract or tort by means of any valuable consideration, not being the actual performance of the obligation itself. The accord is the agreement by which the obligation is discharged. The satisfaction is the consideration which makes the agreement operative."

Action in personam - An action against the person.

Adverse possession - The possession of land, without legal title, for a period of time sufficient to become recognized as legal owner. The more common word for this is "squatters." Each state has its own period of time after which a squatter can acquire legal title. Some states prohibit title by mere "prescription" or possession.

Affidavit - A statement which before being signed, the person signing takes an oath that the contents are, to the best of their knowledge, true. It is also signed by a notary or some other judicial officer that can administer oaths, to the effect that the person signing the affidavit was under oath when doing so. These documents carry great weight in Courts to the extent that judges frequently accept an affidavit instead of the "testimon" of the "witness".

Aggravated damages - Special and highly exceptional "damages" awarded by a court where the circumstances of the tortious conduct have been particularly humiliating or malicious towards the plaintiff/victim.

Alternative dispute resolution - Also known as "ADR"; methods by which legal conflicts and disputes are resolved privately and other than through litigation in the public courts, usually through one of two forms: "mediation" or "arbitration". It typically involves a process much less formal than the traditional court process and includes the appointment of a third-party to preside over a hearing between the parties. The advantages of ADR are speed and money: it costs less and is quicker than court litigation. ADR forums are also private. The disadvantage is that it often involves compromise.

Appeal - To ask a more senior court or person to review a decision of a subordinate court or person. In some countries such as Canada, the USA and Australia, appeals can continue all the way up to the Supreme Court, where the decision is final in that it can no longer be appealed. That is why it is called "supreme" (although, in Australia the supreme court is called the High Court ).

Appearance  - The act of showing up in court as either plaintiff, defendant, accused or any other party to a civil or criminal suit. It implies that you accept the power of the court to try the matter (i.e. "jurisdiction"). Appearances are most often made by lawyers on their clients behalf and any appearance by a lawyer binds the client. You can make a limited appearance called a "special appearance" in which your presence is not to imply acceptance of the court's jurisdiction but, rather, to challenge the jurisdiction of the court. An example of the usefulness of a "special appearance" would be where you want to raise the fact that you were never properly served with the court papers.

Arbitration  - An "alternative dispute resolution" method by which an independent, neutral third person ("arbitrator") is appointed to hear and consider the merits of the dispute and renders a final and binding decision called an award. The process is similar to the litigation process as it involves adjudication, except that the parties choose their arbitrator and the manner in which the arbitration will proceed. The decision of the arbitrator is known as an "award." Compare with "mediation".

Assign  - To give, to transfer responsibility, to another. The assignee (sometimes also called "assigns") is the person who receives the right or property being given and the assignor is the person giving.

At law  - According to the course of the common law; in law, as opposed to "in equity" or according to the principles and procedure in courts of equity or chancery.

Bankruptcy  - The formal condition of an "insolvent" person being declared bankrupt under law. The legal effect is to divert most of the debtor's assets and debts to the administration of a third person, sometimes called a  "trustee" in bankruptcy", from which outstanding debts are paid "pro rata". Bankruptcy forces the debtor into a statutory period during which his or her commercial and financial affairs are administered under the strict supervision of the "trustee". Bankruptcy usually involves the removal of several special legal rights such as the right to sit on a board of directors or, for some professions that form part of the justice system, to practice, such as lawyers or judges. Commercial organizations usually add other non-legal burdens upon bankrupts such as the refusal of credit. The duration of "bankruptcy" status varies from state to state but it does have the benefit of erasing most debts even if they were not satisfied by the sale of the debtor's assets.

Barrister- A class of legal practitioner who is by law or custom limited to advocacy and advisory work, in any field of the law. Also known as ‘counsel’.

Beneficiary - One who is entitled to the benefit of a contract or of an estate held by another. The word, though a little remote from the original meaning of the expression "cestui que trust", is more appropriate for one who is a trustee or fide-commissary.

Bequeath - A gift of personal property by will.

Bona fides - Good faith

Breach of Conduct- The failure of a party to a contract to perform a contractual obligation; or an anticipatory breach.

Breach of trust  - Any act or omission on the part of the trustee which is inconsistent with the terms of the trust agreement or the law of trusts. A prime example is the redirecting of trust property from the trust to the trustee, personally.

Case - In pleading, a term for "action on the case", "trespass on the case", "special action of trespass on the case" --a common-law form of action. A remedy for all personal wrongs committed without force --where the injury is consequential. Called "case" because the plaintiff's whole cause of complaint is set forth at length.

Caveat - Latin. Let him take heed; let him beware. A formal notice or warning to an officer or a court not to do a specified act; as, not to probate a will, grant letters of administration, issue letters-patent for an invention or for land, - until the person procuring the order can be heard in opposition to the contemplated act or proceeding.

Class action- Legal proceedings which allow the claims of many individuals against the same defendant, which arise out of the same or similar circumstances, to be conducted by a single representative.

Client-solicitor privilege  - A right that belongs to the client of a lawyer that the latter keep any information or words spoken to him during the provision of the legal services to that client, strictly confidential. This includes being shielded from testimony before a court of law. The client may, expressly or impliedly, waive the privilege and, exceptionally, it may also be waived by the lawyer if the disclosure of the information may prevent a serious crime.

Codicil- An amendment to an existing "will". Does not mean that the will is totally changed; just to the extent of the codicil.

Commercial law- Areas of law having particular relevance to commerce and commercial transactions, such as contract, agency, banking, insurance, finance, export and import of merchandise, carriage of goods, mercantile agency and usages, company and partnership law.

Common Law- The unwritten law derived from the traditional law of England as developed by judicial precedence, interpretation, expansion and modification.

Common law action - An action maintainable at common law.

Condition precedent   - A contractual condition that suspends the coming into effect of a  "contract" unless or until a certain event takes place. Many residential real estate contracts have a condition precedent which states that the contract is not binding until and unless the property is subjected to an professional inspection, the results of which are satisfactory to the purchaser. Compare with "condition subsequent”.

Condition subsequent   - A condition in a "contract" that causes the contract to become invalid if a certain event occurs. This is different from a "condition precedent". The happening of a condition subsequent may invalidate a contract which is, until that moment, fully valid and binding. In the case of a condition precedent, no binding contract exists until the condition occurs.

Conflict of laws - Opposition of laws upon the same object, whether of the same or of different jurisdictions.

Consideration   - Under common law, there can be no binding contract without consideration, which was defined in an 1875 English decision as "some right, interest, profit or benefit accruing to the one party, or some forbearance, detriment, loss or responsibility given, suffered or undertaken by the other". Common law did not want to allow gratuitous offers, those made without anything offered in exchange (such as gifts), to be given the protection of contract law. So they added the criteria of consideration. Consideration is not required in contracts made in civil law systems and many common law states have adopted laws which remove consideration as a prerequisite of a valid contract.


  1. A legally binding promise or agreement; an act in law where two or more persons declare their consent as to any act or thing to be done or fore bone by some or one of then for the use of the others or other of them.
  2. The body of general principle pertaining to the various branches if contract law, such as sale of goods contracts.
  3. The act of entering into an agreement.
  4. The form or document that embodies the terms of an agreement between parties, for example a ’standard form contract’.

Copyright  - The exclusive right to produce or reproduce (copy), to perform in public or to publish an original literary or artistic work. Many countries have expanded the definition of a "literary work" to include computer programs or other electronically stored information.

Court of Equity - A court which proceeds wholly according to the principles of equity.

Crown - The sovereign; the royal power: also, that which concerns or pertains to the ruling power - the king or queen.

Custody   - Control, responsibility for, or confinement.

Damages- Compensation for damages suffered; a court-awarded sum of money which places the plaintiff in the position he or she would have occupied had the legal wrong not occurred.

Defendant- Any legal person against whom relief is sought in a matter, or who is required to attend proceedings in a matter as a party to the proceedings.

Demand letter  - A letter from a lawyer, on behalf of a client, that demands payment or some other action, which is in default. Demand letters are not always prerequisites for a legal suit but there are exceptions such as legal action on "promissory note" or if the contract requires it. Basically, a demand letter sets out why the payment or action is claimed, how it should be carried out (eg. payment in full), directions for the reply and a deadline for the reply. Demand letters are often used in business contexts because they are a courtesy attempt to maintain some goodwill between business parties and they often prompt payment, avoiding expensive "litigation". A demand letter often contains the "threat" that if it is not adhered to, the next communication between the parties will be through a court of law in the form of formal legal action.

Discretionary trust  - A "trust" in which the "settlor" has given the "trustee" full discretion to decide which (and when) members of a group of beneficiaries is to receive either the income or the capital of the "trust".


  1. The separate body of law, developed in the Court of Chancery, which supplements, corrects, and controls the rules of common law.
  2. A right recognised by a court of equity, based in ethical concepts, and justifying in certain cases the judicial intervention of that court.

Estoppel - A rule of law that when person A, by act or words, gives person B reason to believe a certain set of facts upon which person B takes action, person A cannot later, to his (or her) benefit, deny those facts or say that his (or her) earlier act was improper. A 1891 English court decision summarized estoppel as "a rule of evidence which precludes a person from denying the truth of some statement previously made by himself".

Fee simple  - The most extensive "tenure" allowed under the "feudal system" allowing the tenant to sell or convey by will or be transfer to a heir if the owner dies "intestate". In modern law, almost all land is held in fee simple and this is as close as one can get to absolute ownership in common law.

Fair market value  - The hypothetical most probable price that could be obtained for a property by average, informed purchasers.

Fiduciary  - Normally, the term is synonymous to a "trustee", which is the classic form of a fiduciary relationship. A fiduciary has rights and powers which would normally belong to another person. The fiduciary holds those rights which he or she must exercise to the benefit of the "beneficiary". A fiduciary must not allow any conflict of interest to infect their duties towards the  "beneficiary" and must exercise a high standard of care in protecting or promoting the interests of the "beneficiary". Fiduciary responsibilities exist for persons other than  "trustee" such as between solicitor and client and principal and agent.

Fieri facias  - A "writ" of fieri facias commands a sheriff to take and sell enough property from the person who lost the law suit, to pay the debt owed by the judgment.

Forgery - At common law, the fraudulent making or alteration of a writing to the prejudice of another man's right.

Fraud  - Deceitful conduct designed to manipulate another person to give something of value by (1) lying, (2) by repeating something that is or ought to have been known by the fraudulent party as false or suspect or (3) by concealing a fact from the other party which may have saved that party from being cheated. The existence of fraud will cause a court to void a contract and can give rise to criminal liability.

Garnishee  - The seizing of a person's property, credit or salary, on the basis of a law which allows it, and for the purposes of paying off a debt. The person who possesses the assets of the debtor and is the subject of the seizure is called a "garnishee". This is frequently used in the enforcement of child support where delinquent debtors will be subjected to salary garnishment. A percentages of their wages is subtracted directly off their pay-check and directed to the person in need of support (the employer being the garnishee).

Guarantor  - A person who pledges collateral for the contract of another, but separately, as part of an independently contract with the obligee of the original contract. Compare with "surety"."

Hearing- A proceeding conducted by a court, tribunal, or a administrator with a view to resolving issues of fact or law, in which oral evidence may be taken and documentary and real evidence tendered.

Industrial law- The area of law that regulates industrial relations, that is , the relations between employees and their representative organisations.

Injunction  - A court order that prohibits a party from doing something (restrictive injunction) or compels them to do something (mandatory injunction).

Insolvent  - A person not able to pay his or her debts as they become due. "Insolvency" is a prerequisite to "bankruptcy".

Interlocutory injunction  - An "injunc" which lasts only until the end of the trial during which the injunction was sought.

Joint and several liability  - Liability of more than one person for which each person may be sued for the entire amount of damages done by all.

Joint tenancy  - When two or more persons are equally owners of some property. The unique aspect of joint tenancy is that as the joint tenancy owners die, their shares accrue to the surviving owner(s) so that, eventually, the entire share is held by one person. A valid joint tenancy is said to require the "four unities": unity of interest (each joint tenant must have an equal interest including equality of duration and extent), unity of title (the interests must arise from the same document), unity of possession (each joint tenant must have an equal right to occupy the entire property) and unity of time: the interests of the joint tenants must arise at the same time.

Jurisdiction   - The scope of the court’s power to examine and determine the facts, interpret and apply the law, make orders and declare judgement. Jurisdiction may be limited by geographic area, the type of parties who appear, the type of relief that can be sought, and the point to be decided.

Laches  - A legal doctrine whereby those who take too long to assert a legal right, lose their entitlement to compensation. When you claim that a person's legal suit against you is not valid because of this, you would call it "estoppel by laches".

Landlord  - A land or building owner who has "lease" the land, the building or a part of the land or building, to another person.

Law- The subject matter of the discipline of jurisprudence; the framework of rules and regulations governing society.

Lawyer- A barrister or solicitor; a person qualified to practice law.

Legal Costs- At common law, the remuneration and disbursements incurred in relation to legal work.

Legislation- The instruments embodying the creation and promulgation of laws by the Commonwealth and State legislatures; law made by Parliament, that is, statute law or Acts of Parliament. Law made by other bodies under the authority of Parliament is termed delegated legislation.

Liability- A person’s present or prospective legal responsibility, duty, or obligation.

Licence- A permit to do something which would without a licence be unlawful.

Limited partner  - A unique colleague in a "partnership" relationship who has agreed to be liable only to the extent of his (or her) investment. Limited partners, though, have no right to manage the "partnership". Limited partners are usually just investors or promoters who seek the tax benefits of a partnership

Liquidation  - The selling of all the assets of a "debtor" and the use of the cash proceeds of the sale to pay off "creditor".

Litigation- The conduct of legal proceedings by parties before a court.

Magistrate- A judicial officer appointed by the executive government to hear and determine civil and criminal matters arising in courts of summary jurisdiction.    

Mediation- A method of dispute resolution which includes undertaking any activity for the purpose of promoting the discussion and settlement of disputes, bringing together the parties to any dispute for that purpose, and follow-up of any matter being the subject of such discussion or settlement.

Misrepresentation  - A false and material statement which induces a party to enter into a "contract". This is a ground for "rescind" of the  "contract".

Mitigating circumstances  - These are facts that, while not negating an offence or wrongful action, tend to show that the defendant may have had some grounds for acting the way he/she did. For example, "assault", though provoked, is still assault but provocation may constitute mitigating circumstances and allow for a lesser sentence.

Negligence- An action in tort law, the elements of which are; the existence of a duty of care; breach of that duty of care; and material damage as a consequence of the breach of duty.

Nominal damages -  A trivial sum awarded where a mere breach of duty or infraction of right is shown, with no serious loss sustained.

Offence- A specified transgression of the criminal or regulatory law. An offence may be against the provisions of statutes or subordinate legislation.


  1. In colloquial usage, the expression of mere willingness to commence negotiations.
  2. In contact law, the expression of willingness to contract on terms stated.

Out of court settlement- In civil proceedings, an agreement where parties to proceedings, without reference to the court and  at any time before final judgement, to settle or compromise all or any of the matters in issue between them.

Partnership  - A business organization in which two or more persons carry on a business together. Partners are each fully liable for all the debts of the enterprise but they also share the profits exclusively. Many states have laws which regulate partnerships and may, for example, require some form of registration and allow partnership agreements. One of the basic advantages of partnerships is that they tend to allow business losses to be deducted from personal income for tax purposes (see also "limited partner").

Plaintiff- A person who seeks relief against any other person by any form of proceedings in court.

Pleadings - That part of a party's case in which he or she formally sets out the facts and legal arguments which support that party's position. Pleadings can be in writing or they can be made verbally to a court, during the trial.

Postal rule  - A rule of contract law that makes an exception to the general rule that an "acceptance" is only created when communicated directly to the offeror. An acceptance is binding and the contract is said to be perfected when the acceptor places this acceptance in the mail box for return mail even if, in fact, it never reaches the offeror. An 1892 British case summarized it as follows: "Where the circumstances are such that it must have been within the contemplation of the parties that, according to the ordinary usages of mankind, the post might be used as a means of communicating the acceptance of an offer, the acceptance is complete as soon as it is posted."


  1. A judgement that is authority for a case on similar facts.
  2. A document or form used as a basis or template by lawyers as a guide for drafting in analogous situations.

Prima facie  - (Latin) A legal presumption which means "on the face of it" or "at first sight". Law-makers will often use this device to establish that if a certain set of facts are proven, then another fact is established prima facie. For example, proof of mailing a letter is prima facie proof that it was received by the person to whom it was addressed and will accepted as such by a court unless proven otherwise. Other situations may require a prima facie case before proceeding to another step in the judicial process so that you would have to at least prove then that at first glance, there appears to be a case.

Product liability-

  1. A responsibility or onus imposed by the law of contract and tort, or by consumer legislation on a manufacturer, distributor, or supplier to warn consumers approximately about possible detrimental or harmful effects of a product and to foresee how it may be misused.
  2. In tort law, the liability of a company, manufacturer, or producer for defective products, which arises from the duty owed by that manufacturer to consumers of those products, irrespective of the existence of a contractual relationship.

Property   - A word which can be used to describe every type of right ( that is, a claim recognised by law), interest, or thing which is legally capable of ownership, and which has a value.

Prosecution   -

  1. Proceedings by which a person is brought to trial for a criminal offence; the initiation of legal processes in the criminal jurisdiction of a court.
  2. The party conducting criminal proceedings against another person; generally called ’the Crown’ in higher courts.

Public liability- A risk of liability to the public at large against which an insurance policy may be obtained.

Quantum  - Latin: amount or extent.

Quantum meruit  - Latin for "as much as is deserved." This is a legal principle under which a person should not be obliged to pay, nor should another be allowed to receive, more than the value of the goods or services exchanged.

Quasi-judicial  - Refers to decisions made by administrative tribunals or government officials to which the rules of "natural justice" apply. In judicial decisions, the principles of natural justice always apply. But between routine government policy decisions and the traditional court forums lies a hybrid, sometimes called a "tribunal" or "administrative tribunal" and not necessarily presided by judges. These operate as a government policy-making body at times but also exercise a licensing, certifying, approval or other adjudication authority which is "judicial" because it directly affects the legal rights of a person. Some law teachers suggest that there is no such thing as a "quasi-judicial" decision or body; the body or decision is either judicial or not.

Quid pro quo  - Latin: something for something. The giving of something in exchange for another thing of equal value.

Quorum   - The number of people who must be present at a meeting before business can be conducted. Without "quorum", decisions are invalid. Many organizations have a quorum requirement to prevent decisions being taken without a majority of members present.

Quo warranto  - Latin and referring to a special legal procedure taken to stop a person or organization from doing something for which it may not have the legal authority, by demanding to know by what right they exercise the controversial authority.

Ratio decidende - Reason for deciding; the logic of a ruling.

Real property  - Immoveable property such as land or a building or an object that, though at one time a "chattel", has become permanently affixed to land or a building.

Rescind- To abrogate or cancel a contract putting the parties in the same position they would have been in had there been no contract. Rescission can occur in two ways: either a contract can be set aside (rescinded) because of some defect in its formation (such as misrepresentation, duress or undue influence) or it can be set aside by agreement by the parties, for example if they reach a new agreement.

Rent  - This is the  "consideration" paid by a “tenant" to a “landlord" in exchange for the exclusive use and enjoyment of land, a building or a part of a building. Under normal circumstances, the rent is paid in money and at regular intervals, such as the first of every month. The word has also come to be used as a verb as in to "rent an apartment", although the proper legal term would be to "lease an apartment."

Res ipsa loquitur  - A word used in "tort" to refer to situations where  "negligence" is presumed on the defendant since the object causing injury was in his or her control. This is a presumption which can be rebutted by showing that the event was an inevitable accident and had nothing to do with the defendant's responsibility of control or supervision. An example of res ipsa loquitur would be getting hit by a rock which flies off a passing dump truck. The event itself imputes negligence (res ipsa loquitur) and can only be defeated if the defendant can show that the event was a total and inevitable accident.

Res judicata  - Latin: A matter which has already been conclusively decided by a court.

Respondent   -

  1. A party to court proceedings against whom relief is claimed by an applicant or an appellant.
  2. A person against whom an interlocutory or procedural application is made by way of notice of motion.

Resulting Trust   - A trust that is presumed by the court from certain situations. Similar to a constructive trust but for resulting trusts, the court presumes an intention to create a trust; the law assumes that the property is not held by the right person and that the possessor is only holding property “in trust” for the rightful owner. In a constructive trusts, the courts don’t even bother with presuming an intention; they simply impose a trust from the facts.

Restitutio in integrum  - Latin for restitution to the original position. In contract law, upon breach of contract, the injured party may ask the court to reverse the contract and revert the parties to their respective positions before the contract was accepted. But if the court finds that restitutio in integrum is not possible because of actions or events occurring since the date of acceptance, then the court may order that damages be paid instead.

Restitution  - Under ancient English common law, when a party enforced a court judgement and then that judgement was overturned on appeal, the appellant could ask the appeal court for "restitution", or financial compensation placing that appellant in the same position as if the original legal decision had not been enforced. A new strain of common law has also developed called "restitution", closely associated with unjust enrichment, whereby a person is deprived of something of value belonging to them, can ask a court to order "restitution". The best example is asking a court to reverse or correct a payment made in error.

Right of first refusal   - A right given to a person to be the first person allowed to purchase a certain object if it is ever offered for sale. The owner of this right is the first to be offered the designated object if it is ever to be offered for sale.

Share  - A portion of a "company" bought by a transfer of cash in exchange for a certificate, the certificate constituting proof of share ownership. Persons owning shares in a "company" are called "shareholders". There are two basic kinds of shares: "common share" and "preferred share". A shareholder is not liable for the debts or other obligations of the "company" except to the extent of any commitment made to buy shares. The two other benefits of shares include a right to participate in profits (through "dividend") and the right to share the residue of assets of the "company", once liabilities have been paid off, if it is ever dissolved.

Shareholder agreement  - A contract between the shareholders of the company and the company itself, in which certain things, usually the purview of the board of directors, are detailed. For example, a shareholder might be allowed to manage the company, instead of a board of directors. The shareholder agreement will also, typically, control inflows to the company (purchase of shares), how profits are to be distributed, dispute resolution and what to do if a shareholder dies.

Slander  - Verbal or spoken "defame".

Special damages-

  1. Damages awarded for loss actually suffered and expenditure actually incurred.
  2. Damages in respect of a tort that is not actionable per se.
  3. Damages that are peculiar to a particular plaintiff in that they are over and above those suffered by the public at large.

Solicitor- A class of legal practitioner, generally responsible for advising clients on legal matters, preparing legal documents, representing clients in summary matters, and instructing barristers in relation to more complex advocacy

Statutory action - Such form of action as is given by legislative enactment.

Strict liability  - Tort liability which is set upon the defendant without need to prove intent, negligence or fault; as long as you can prove that it was the defendant's object that caused the damage.

Tenants in common  - Similar to "joint". All tenants in common share equal property rights except that, upon the death of a tenant in common, that share does not go to the surviving tenants but is transferred to the estate of the deceased tenant. Unity of possession but distinct titles.

Tender  - An unconditional offer of a party to a contract to perform their part of the bargain. For example, if the contract is a loan contract, a tender would be an act of the debtor where he produces the amount owing and offers to the creditor. In real property law, when a party suspects that the other may be preparing to renege, he or she can write a tender in which they unequivocally re-assert their intention to respect the contract and tender their end of the bargain; either by paying the purchase or delivering the title.

Tort- A civil wrong distinguished from the law of contract, law of restitution, and the criminal law. A tort is a breach of a duty, potentially owed to the whole world, imposed by law.

Trust  - Property given by a person called the "donor" or "settlor", to a "trustee", for the benefit of another person (the "beneficiary" or "donee"). The "trustee" manages and administers the property, actual ownership is shared between the  "trustee" and the "beneficiary" and all the profits go to the  "beneficiary". The word "fiduciary"" can be used to describe the responsibilities of the "trustee" towards the "beneficiary". A will is a form of trust but trusts can be formed during the lifetime of the settlor in which case it is called an inter vivos or living trust.

Trustee  - The person who holds property rights for the benefit of another through the legal mechanism of the "trust". A trustee usually has full management and administration rights over the property but these rights must always be exercised to the full advantage of the "beneficiary". All profits from the property go to the "beneficiary" although the trustee is entitled to reimbursement for administrative costs. There is no legal impediment for a trustee to also be a "beneficiary" of the same property.

Unjust enrichment  - A legal procedure whereby you can seek reimbursement from another who benefited from your action or property without legal justification. There are said to be three conditions which must be met before you can get a court to force reimbursement based on "unjust enrichment": an actual enrichment or benefit to the defendant, a corresponding deprivation to the "plaint", and the absence of a legal reason for the defendant's enrichment. For example (and only theoretically as many countries have laws which have modified "equity" law in some situations), if you found somebody else's cash and spent it, you might be sued for reimbursement under unjust enrichment. The legal theory behind unjust enrichment is the  "constructive trust", which the court imposes upon the circumstances to hold the person unjustly enriched as the  "trustee" for the person who should properly get the property back, held to be the  "beneficiary" of the "constructive trust".

Vicarious liability  - When a person is held responsible for the "tort" of another even though the person being held responsible may not have done anything wrong. This is often the case with employers who are held vicariously liable for the damages caused by their employees.

Void or void ab initio   - Not legally binding. A document that is void is useless and worthless; as if it did not exist. For example, in many countries, contracts for immoral purposes are said to be "void":unenforceable and not recognized by the courts. A good example is a contract to commit a serious crime such as murder.

Voidable  - The law distinguishes between contracts which are void and those which are voidable. Some contracts have such a latent defect that they are said to be void (see definition of "void"" above). Other have more minor defects to them and are voidable at the option of the party victimized by the defect. For example, contracts signed by a person when they are totally drunk are voidable by that person upon recovering sobriety.

Warranty  - A guarantee given on the performance of a product or the doing of a certain thing. For example, many consumer products come with warranties under which the manufacturer will repair or replace any product that fails during the warranty period; the commitment to repair or replace being the "warranty".


  1. A person who sees or hears material relevant to an enquiry.
  2. A person appearing at a hearing to give evidence.
  3. A person who observes the signing of a legal document such as a Will as and when it takes place and affirms it by adding his or her signature on the document as a attesting witness.

Without prejudice- A statement made without an intention to affect the legal rights of any person.         

Writ   - That which is written: a writing; a mandate or precept. Usually meaning the document filed in court to commence legal proceedings.

Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.

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