jargon busters

Here are our handy jargon busters to help you navigate through some legal language...

A

  • Act of God: Natural event that cannot be foreseen or prevented e.g. storm, flood, or earthquake
  • Adverse Possession: Also known as ‘squatters rights’ – when a person acquires the rights to property or land through the satisfaction of certain common law conditions (such as long-term residence).
  • Advocate: Someone who acts in the best interests of an individual or cause, speaking up for them.
  • Affidavit: Written statement signed by the writer and witnessed by an individual legally authorised to do so (notary) to verify its veracity.
  • Aggravated Damages: Additional compensation awarded to victim of care where injuries worsened.
  • Agricultural Holding: Land subject of a contract for agricultural tenancy (irrespective of agricultural land or not).
  • Ambulatory Will: Will that can be amended as the person making it is still alive and able to do so.
  • Annuitant: Individual in receipt of an annuity.
  • Annuity: Fixed sum of money paid to an individual in annual instalments.
  • Annul: To declare that an event (e.g. marriage) never took place from a legal perspective.
  • Attorney: An appointed person(s) who can make decisions on the donor’s behalf once the LPA is registered.

B

  • Barrister: Lawyer who advocates for and represents an individual or an organisation in court.
  • Beneficiary: Individual entitled to benefit from a Will, trust or life insurance policy.
  • Bequest: Passing on of personal property in a Will.
  • Bigamy: Crime of entering simultaneous marriages with more than one other person. In the UK this is illegal, with only the first marriage being valid.
  • Bond: A written and signed guarantee that signatory will fulfil a legal obligation or face penalties.
  • Breach of Contract: When one or more parties refuses or stops carrying out a contract, by failing to fulfil their contractual obligations.
  • Breach of Trust: Any act that violates the duties of either a trustee, the terms of a trust agreement or the laws of trusts.
  • Break Clause: Term in a tenancy agreement that permits tenant and/or landlord to end the agreement during a fixed tenancy period.
  • Bylaw: Law established and enforced by a local government or organisation, but powers regulated by a higher authority e.g. UK made local councils but rely on powers granted by the Parliament.

C

  • Capacity: Governed by the Mental Capacity Act 2005. This states that a person is unable to make a decision if they cannot understand information that is relevant, retain the information and use or weigh up the information to come to a decision.

  • Claimant: Party that claims they have been the victim of wrongdoing and initiates legal proceeding against another party.

  • Codicil (Will): Official document attached to an existing will to make small amendments.
  • Coercion: Making someone do something against their will by using intimidation or force, (such as being forced to create a Will).
  • Collateral: Property that can be used/named as collateral by an individual when taking out a loan, meaning to agree to forfeit it if they cannot meet repayments.
  • Commissioner of Oath: Individual with the power, invested in him or her by the state, to verify oaths, affidavits, and other legal documents.
  • Commorienties: Translates as ‘simultaneous deaths’ when two or more people die, either at the same time or circumstances leave order of death unclear. To determine succession, Commorienties rule applies – death assumed in order of seniority with the eldest person dying first.
  • Companies House: The UK’s registrar of companies. All limited companies are required to register with and submit certain details to them.
  • Compensation: Award of money a person is entitled to due to loss or damage.
  • Concealment: Action of hiding something or preventing it from being known, where it is required to be legally disclosed.
  • Consent: When two or more agree on the same thing in the same sense.
  • Constructive Dismissal: Forced to leave a job against own will because the employer’s conduct was a breach of contract.
  • Contempt of Court: Act of deliberately failing to obey or respect the authority of a court of law or legislative body.
  • Contract Law: Body of law related to the formation and enforcement of contracts.
  • Contributory Negligence: Rule where if a person is involved in an accident where someone is partially responsible as a result of negligence, they wouldn’t be entitled to claim damages from any party involved.
  • Conveyance: Legal transfer of property between individuals.

D

  • Debt: Something owned in exchange for goods or services.
  • Deed: Official document confirming the ownership of land or property.
  • Defamation: False statement damaging the reputation of another person. If written then this is known as ‘libel’, and if spoken this is known as ‘slander’.
  • Derogation: Relaxation of a law, by addition of an act that reduces power.
  • Disaster Scenario: Clause that can be written into your Will to provide for a ‘disaster scenario’ whereby none of your other named beneficiaries survive you.
  • Disbursement: Payments a lawyer makes to third parties whilst preparing for a court case e.g. expert reports from a medical professional.
  • Disclaimer: Expression used for a person giving up their entitlement under a Will or intestacy.
  • Domicile: The country of an individuals’ permanent and principal residence. (This is included within a clause in a Will to identify where your permanent home is and to establish if tax needs to be paid.)
  • Donor: The person who an LPA relates to.

E

  • Easement: Right to use another individual’s land for a specific purpose (gain access to water or road).
  • Endowment Property: Donation of property, money or land to create or support the continued running of a good cause.
  • Equitable Mortgage: Mortgage where the bank takes possession of deeds to the original title documents of the property as security in case of non-payment.
  • Excess of Jurisdiction: When a court acts beyond its limits of power.
  • Executor: Person/s responsible for the process of probate, obtaining the grant, paying debts, collecting and distributing the estate.

F

  • Fiduciary: Person who holds a legal or ethical relationship of trust with another person. Typically, a fiduciary takes care of money or other assets for another person.
  • Fixed or Floating Changes: Both types of charges give creditors security over a debtor’s assets. Fixed charges limit debtor’s ability to dispose of assets whilst floating charges give more freedom.
  • Forfeiture: Loss of a right as a result of a failure to meet necessary conditions or obligations.
  • Fraudulent Conveyance: Illegally transferring property to put it out of a creditor’s rightful reach to avoid debt – ‘fraudulent transfer’.

G

  • General Legacy: An amount of money or other asset that is given to someone out of the general assets of a person who has died rather than a particular object or asset named in the Will. 
  • Grant of Probate: Issued when there is a valid Will in place naming an executor who is able and willing to prove the Will. This needs to be sent to the relevant probate registry where grant of probate can be issued, allowing the assets in the Will to be distributed.
  • Grievance: Complaint made by an individual claiming to suffer an injury or injustice at hands of another.
  • Gross Profit: Company’s overall profit, accounting for inputs and outputs.
  • Guaranty: Promise to fulfil another’s obligations, including payment of any debts if they fail to do so. (Such as a parent being a guarantor for a student renting in Halls of Residence).

H

  • Hereditament: Anything an individual passes on that can be inherited – corporeal (physical, such as property) or incorporated (such as a right of way).
  • High Court (of justice): Deals at first instance with cases of high value and importance but also has supervisory jurisdiction over all other lower courts in the country
  • HM Land Registry: Department of the UK Government that is responsible for registering land and property ownership in England and Wales.
  • HM Revenue and Customers (HMRC): The UK Government’s tax and customs authority. Responsible for collecting taxes, duties and student loan repayments and the payments of some state support claim and the enforcement of minimum wage.
  • House of Lords: A second chamber of the UK parliament. They are responsible for making laws, considering matters of public policy and holding government to account. New laws must pass through both Parliament and then the Lords. Members are not elected like members of the House of Commons, rather appointed on the basis of expertise and experience.

I

  • IHT: Inheritance Tax is a tax on the estate (the property, money and possessions) of a deceased person.
  • Intangible Property: Property with no physical substance, such as a patent or stocks.
  • Intermeddled: Somebody stuck in the role of an executor or administrator even if they did not wish to as they have got involved in sorting the estate.
  • Intestacy: If someone died and left no explicit instructions (Will) as to who will inherit their entire or part of estate, the Rules of Intestacy will apply.

J

  • Joint Lives Policy: Life insurance policy that covers two lives.
  • Joint Will: Will made by two or more individuals (such as a husband and wife).
  • Judicial Separation: Legal documentation proving a married couple no longer live together under one roof and that all marital obligations cease – legal separation.
  • Jurisdiction: Official power to make legal decisions and judgments.
  • Jury Service: Citizen’s obligation to serve as a juror in legal proceeding when required.

K

  •  Next of Kin: Individual’s closest living friends/family.

L

  • LPA (Lasting Power of Attorney): Legal document that lets you appoint one or more people to help you make decisions, or to make decisions on your behalf, when you no longer have the capacity to do so. There are two types, Health and Welfare and also Property and Financial affairs.

  • Lawsuit: Legal case involving two parties, where one has a claim or complaint against the other.

  • Lease: Contract where one party (i.e. landlord) grants another party (i.e. tenant) certain rights to something in their possession (i.e. property) for a fixed amount of time, provided certain conditions (i.e. regular rent payments) are met.
  • Legatee: Individual or organisation that is left personal property in a Will.
  • Lessee: Individual who leases property, such as a tenant.
  • Letters of Administration: Issued when the deceased has not left a valid Will.
  • Letters of administration with the Will annexed: A valid will has been left by the deceased but there is no executor able or willing to prove it. One executor may appoint an attorney to act or alternatively a relative will have to apply.
  • Liabilities (Legal Responsibility): Conditions of being accountable for something in the eyes of the law. When in probate situations liabilities are those such as debts that need paying from the estate.
  • Life Assurance Policy (Insurance): Insurance policy that stipulates that the insurer pays a specified sum of money to a designated beneficiary in the event of a policy holder’s death.
  • Life Interest: Right that lasts only during holder’s (life tenant’s) lifetime and ends upon their death.
  • Liquidation: A process where business’ assets and property are redistributed following its closure.
  • Litigation: Process where one party (claimant) brings another (defendant) to court to settle a legal matter.
  • Living Wills: Document which sets out your views on how you wish to be treated when, and if, you face a situation where you are unable to communicate wishes. A living will is not to be used at death, it is only used in order for the above to be set out. Also known as an Advance Directive.

M

  • Magistrates: Volunteer who hears cases concerning less serious offences, and holds preliminary hearings for more serious offences, in their community courts.
  • Malpractice: Failure by a professional to meet the standard of care or conduct expected of one of their status.
  • Mandate: Command issued by a court that recipients must obey.
  • Master of the Rolls: Very senior judge who presides over the Court of Appeals.
  • Matrimonial Causes: Reasons, relating to marriage, which may lead one to pursue legal action through ecclesiastic courts.
  • Mediation: Process of resolving a dispute between two or more parties through the involvement of an impartial party (mediator).
  • Mercantile Law: Section of the law related to trade and business transactions.
  • Mesne Profit: Profits of an estate kept from the rightful landowner.
  • Messuage: House plus any attached outbuildings and land.
  • Mirror Will: One of two Wills which are made for individuals who are married, in a civil partnership or cohabiting and wish for both of their Wills to be the same. This protects each other if one or both of them should die. Mirror Wills also protect any children involved.
  • Misconduct: Unlawful conduct, carried out by a person in a position of power and authority, which adversely affects others.

N

  • Negligence: Failure to act with due care and attention (as established by law and expected by any reasonable person) that results in unintended harm to another.
  • Negotiable Instrument: Document that guarantees the future payment of a specified amount of money, such as bill of exchange, cheque, or banknote.
  • Next of Kin: Individuals closest living friends or family members.
  • Nondisclosure: Act of keeping certain information private, either to oneself or between certain involved parties.
  • Notary: Individual that has been authorised by relevant authorities to carry out certain legal formalities, such as certifying legal documents.

O

  • Oath: Declaration to tell the truth before the law. In probate an oath is used for the executor/s to confirm their right to administrate the estate.
  • Occupier Liability: Property owner’s duty of care towards anyone whilst they visit or trespass on their premises.
  • Offer: Proposition to perform a particular service or act, provided that certain conditions are met.
  • Omission: Refusal or failure to perform an act to which one is legally obliged.
  • Oppression: When authority or power are exercised in a way that goes beyond acceptable limits. (Such as in a way that is cruel, severe and unjust).
  • Order in Council: Legislation in the UK where government implement decisions that require legal force – exercise Royal Prerogative or with Act of Parliament.
  • Originating Summons: Document outlining agreed facts within a legal case, marks the formal start of a case.

P

  • Partial Intestacy: When a Will does not cover everything within the persons estate. A beneficiary may be deceased, and no substitute beneficiary named. This is likely to occur if Wills are not reviewed for a long time.
  • Party: Individual or entity that represents one side of a legal proceeding, transaction, contract or accident.
  • Passing Off: Misrepresents business by falsely stating or implying that it is connected with another.
  • Patent: License that gives the holder the sole right to produce, recreate and sell an invention.
  • Payment into Court: Money given to the court, to be held until a lawsuit determines how the money should be distributed between claiming parties.
  • Pecuniary Legacy: Gifts of money within a Will.
  • Per Pro: Used when signing documents on another individual’s behalf, in order to indicate you have been delegated to act with their authority.
  • Personal Guarantee: Agreement where one party agrees to act as another’s guarantor, assuming liability for outstanding debts may occur.
  • Personal Property: All objects owned by an individual, except from land or buildings.
  • Personal Representative: Individual responsible for managing another person’s affairs such as the settling of a deceased person’s estate.
  • Perverting the Course of Justice: When an individual attempts to prevent justice from being served through actions or words.
  • Pleadings: Legal documents formally outlining claimant’s claims and the defendant’s response during legal proceedings.
  • Pledge: Providing a creditor with personal property to act as security for a debt, to be returned once full payment has occurred.
  • Plenipotentiary: An individual who has been granted full powers to act on behalf of another individual or entity. (Such as a diplomat who has been authorised to act as an ambassador for their government in a foreign country).
  • Polygamy: Practice of being married to multiple people simultaneously.
  • Power of Appointment: The right, conferred by the owner, to dispose of their property.
  • Power of Attorney: Legal right to act in the place of another individual. There are two types of lasting Power of Attorney – Property and Financial Affairs and Health and Welfare.
  • Power Reserved: If an executor decides not to be involved in the estate, they can opt to have the power reserved, meaning they have the right to change their mind later on through the process.
  • Preamble: Piece of writing that introduces a statute or contract and established logic upon which the document is based.
  • Precedent: Binding role or persuasive principle, established during a previous legal case, that is used in present or future cases of a similar kind.
  • Preference Shares: Shares that entitle their holders to a fixed regular payment (dividend).
  • Pro-Bono: Professional work carried out voluntarily and without payment or at a reduced fee.
  • Pro Rata: Proportional division of a sum of a money.
  • Probate: Legal process where the authenticity of a Will is proven, and the deceased’s estate is then administered.
  • Proxy: Individual that has the legal authority to represent another person or entity.
  • Public Nuisance: Minor crimes that impact the general public by obstructing, damaging or inconveniencing them.
  • Putative Father: Man who claims to be the biological father or a child born out of wedlock, but legal relationship not established.

Q

  • Quango: ‘Quaisi-Autonomous Non-Government Organisation’ funded by taxpayer money, but not directly controlled by the Government.
  • Queen’s Bench Division: Division of High Court that deals with contract law, libel and personal injury cases, and supervises lesser courts.
  • Queen’s Council: Status given to senior and successful barristers in honour of professional accomplishments and expertise.
  • Quiet Enjoyment: Tenant’s right to live peacefully in a rented dwelling without undue intrusion or restriction on freedom being imposed by a landlord.
  • Quorum: Minimum number of people required to be present for proceedings to be valid.

R

  • Rack Rent: Rent where the price has been agreed between the landlord and tenant, rather than fixed or controlled by the law.
  • Real Estate: Any property that comprises of buildings or land and the natural resources contained within.
  • Realty: Owner of a real estate property.
  • Redemption: Process where real estate is liberated from a mortgage.
  • Redundancy: Where an employee is dismissed as the position is no longer needed, rather than a fault of their own.
  • Registered Land: Land registered, either with the Land Registry or, if it is agricultural land, the Rural Land Register.
  • Registered Office: Business’ legal address.
  • Reinsurance: Insurance that one insurance company has brought from another.
  • Remainder: Interest held by an individual who owns real property of another take effect on the expiration of property interests.
  • Renouncing Probate: Use of a legal document to announce a desire to leave the position as the administrator or executer of a deceased person’s estate.
  •  Replacement Attorney: Naming another person who can act as an attorney in case the original attorney is unable to or no longer wishes to act on the donor’s behalf.
  • Repossession: Process where a financial institution, such as a bank, claims ownership of a property that has been rented, leased or used as collateral.
  • Representative Action: Legal action taken by one or several individuals on behalf of a large group.
  • Rescission: When a contract is terminated and both parties resume their pre-contact positions, either due to mutual agreement or an act of law.
  • Reservation of Title: Clause that enables suppliers to remain legal owners of any goods they supply until certain specified conditions are met.
  • Residence Order: Court order that decrees where a child will live following disputes as to their living arrangements.
  • Residue of Estate: The rest of a deceased person’s estate which is left after the payment of specific gifts, debts, funeral expenses, and inheritance tax. 
  • Restitution: Restoring something taken away to its rightful owner. Used in contractual situations where one party has co-offered a benefit on another party but cannot claim benefit as contract is defective or no longer exists.
  • Restrictive Covenant: Type of contractual agreement that imposes a restriction on the use of land.
  • Rights Issue: When a company offers current shareholders a deal on newly issued shares- capitalisation issue.

S

  • Security of Tenure: Tenant’s legal right to remain in their home unless legally evicted.
  • Separation: Legal document that a married couple, although still legally married, are living apart as unmarried individuals.
  • Settlement: Two opposing parties that resolve differences before or after court action is taken.
  • Settlor: Individual who settles property on trust laws with the aim of benefitting beneficiaries.
  • Shorthold Tenancy: Letting of a property by a non-resident private landlord, lasting between one to five years.
  • Slander: To make false claims about another individual that damages their reputation (verbally).
  • Small Claims Court: Court that hears civil cases concerning minor disputes between parties involving no serious crimes or large sums of money.
  • Solicitor: Type of lawyer who prepares legal cases, advises on legal matters and represents clients in lower courts.
  • Specific Legacy: Gift of a particular item or asset written into the Will to a specific beneficiary. Such as jewellery, motor vehicles or a book collection. Although if this item is no longer owned at the date of death nothing will be given in its place (unless of course stated otherwise in the Will).
  • Squatter: Individuals who inhabit a piece of real estate without permission from the landowner.
  • Statutory Demand: Formal written agreement request from a creditor for payment of a debt.
  • Statutory Instrument: Legislation that enables Act of Parliament to be enforced or changed without passing a new act.
  • Stipendiary Magistrate: Magistrate that is legally qualified, receives payment for their work, and has the power to sit and hear cases.
  • Subject to Contract: If an arrangement is ‘subject to contract’, no legally binding obligation exists until all involved parties enter into a formal agreement.
  • Subpoena: Official document calling an individual to give evidence as a witness during a court case.
  • Subrogation: Practice of substituting one individual with another in respect to legal matters such as rights, claims and securities.
  • Subsidiary: Business where at least half of its shares are owned by another company – parent company.
  • Summary Judgement: Judgement that finds in favour of one party over another without the need for a full trial.
  • Summary Offence: Minor offence proceeded against without a jury trial and/or indictment.
  • Summary Proceedings: Rapid form of litigation employed for matters that require swift resolution.
  • Summons: Official order to appear in court before a judge or magistrate.
  • Superior Court: Court that holds jurisdiction over all courts in the country.
  • Supervision Order: Court order that a child be placed under the supervision of a particular authority figure.
  • Supra: Indicates any references being made have been cited earlier in the document.
  • Surcharge: Payment must be made in addition to money owed.
  • Surety: Individual who promises to ensure another person performs an action required of them by law.

T

  • Tangible Asset: Item that one person owns that has financial value and physically exists (can be touched) Such as, real property and personal property.
  • Tangible Property: Anything one owns that physically exists (can be touched).
  • Tax: Compulsory payment, taken from worker’s income and business’s profits, used to fund public service provided by the state.
  • Tax Avoidance: Taking advantage of the tax system to reduce the amount of tax they must pay – not illegal.
  • Tax Evasion: Taking illegal steps to avoid paying taxes – illegal.
  • Taxation of Costs: Process where court cases are calculated when, at the end of a case, it has been ruled that one party must pay court costs of another.
  • Teeming and Lading: A bookkeeping fraud that involves the allocation of one customer’s payment to another customer’s account to make the books balance, often to hide a shortfall or theft.
  • Tenant: Individual who lives in a property rented from a landlord.
  • Tenure: In real estate and employment law, fixed period of time where a party has the right to occupy land or hold a position.
  • Terra: Land unoccupied and belongs to no state.
  • Testament: Legal document outlining what should happen to a person’s property after their death, such as a Will.
  • Testamentum: Disposition of property in the event of a death.
  • Testator: Individual who dies having made a Will.
  • Testify: Give evidence in a court under oath.
  • Testimony: Witness’ statement of events, given under oath.
  • Law of Tort: Body of law that aims to provide relief to those victims of wrongdoing.
  • Timeshare: Property (usually a holiday home) shared by multiple parties, each allocated an amount of time to enjoy the property.
  • Tortfeasor: Individual who commits a tort (act infringes on rights of another).
  • Trademark: Registered sign, design, expression that instantly identifies goods or services as coming from a particular source.
  • Transcript: Word-for word written record of words spoken.
  • Tribunal: Individual or institution has authority to settle claims of disputes.
  • Trust: Legal obligation where one party (trustor) charges another (trustee) with holding property for the benefit of a third party (beneficiary).
  • Trustee: Person who holds property in place of another for a set period of time, subject to terms of document provided by the owner. Such as, if A leaves B a sum of money on trust for D to hold for B once B attains the age of 21.

U

  • Unfair dismissal: When an employee is dismissed from employment without a valid reason.

V

  • Vendee: Individual who bought property.
  • Vendor: Individual who sold property.
  • Vicarious Liability: Party hold legally responsible for another party’s actions or omissions.
  • Void: Not valid or legally binding.
  • Voidable: Action voided (cancelled) by any involved parties.

W

  • Codicil (will): Official document attached to existing Will to make small amendments.
  • Warranty: Guarantee product or party will perform as expected.
  • Wilful: Wilful act performed intentionally, consciously, and aimed at achieving a particular goal.
  • Will: Legal document outlining what should happen to a person’s property, money and any wishes they may have for after their death.
  • Winding Up: Process where a business prepares to dissolve.
  • Witness: Individual who sees the signing of a document, an event or a crime.
  • Wrongful Dismissal: Employee dismissed or forced to leave employment as employer breached terms of employment contract or statutory obligations.