Legal Definitions – A
AB Trust – A trust that automatically divides into two trusts upon the death of a spouse. AB trusts are created by married couples to minimize estate taxes.
Abandonment of a Lease – A tenant is deemed to have abandoned a lease when he or she leaves a rental premises and does not pay rent for a specified period of time, depending on individual state laws.
Abstract of Title – A summary of the history of ownership of a piece of real property, which includes a list of encumbrances.
Abuse of Process – When a person misuses a legitimate judicial process in order to harass someone.
Acceleration Clause – In contracts, an acceleration clause requires full performance of the terms of the contract if the contract is breached.
Acceptance of an Offer – Manifesting assent to be bound by the terms of an offer.
Accessory to a Crime – An accessory to a crime is a person who is not present at the time the crime is committed but who knowingly and voluntarily assists the person committing the crime before or after the crime.
Accident Damages – Accident damages are a sum of money that is paid to the victim in a personal injury case in the event that the victim wins. See also: compensatory damages, special damages, punitive damages
Accomplice Criminal Liability – An accomplice is someone who intentionally helps another commit a crime and is generally liable for all of the crimes that the principal commits.
Acquittal – An acquittal means that a criminal defendant is now free from the charges that were brought against him or her and can never be tried again for the same charges.
Active Concealment – Active concealment refers to the situation in a contractual setting where a party conceals any information that they have a duty to disclose to the other party.
Acts of God in Tort Law – A natural event that cannot be prevented by humans, such as floods, tornados, and earthquakes, thereby precluding a defendant from liability for the plaintiff’s harm.
ADA Accommodation – A change required by the ADA that an employer must make in order to allow a disabled employee to perform essential job functions or major life activities in the workplace.
Ademption – When a gift of property in a will cannot be given because the testator no longer owned the property designated as the gift when he died.
Adhesion Contract – A "take it or leave it" contract that allows no room for negotiation.
Administrative Hearing – A hearing before an administrative law judge or a government agency to ensure that the complainant receives the procedural due process that is owed to them.
Adoption – A court procedure in which an adult is legally recognized as the parent of a child who is not his or her biological child.
Adultery – Sexual intercourse between a married person and another person other than his/her spouse.
Advance Parole – Advance parole allows foreign nationals who are traveling abroad to re-enter the U.S. if they do not have a valid immigrant visa.
Adverse Possession – A process by which a person can obtain ownership of a piece of land simply by living on it for the length of the statutory-required period while acting as the true owner.
Affirmative Action – When preference is given to women or ethnic minority group members to make up for past discrimination against these minority groups and to increase diversity in schools and companies.
Age Discrimination – When an employer treats an employee or applicant less favorably because of their age, often deeming them to be too young or too old.
Age of Consent – The age at which a person can legally consent to sexual intercourse.
Agency Law – The law governing the relationship between two parties where one party (the agent) agrees to represent the other party (the principal). See also: agency formation, principal agency laws, terminating an agency relationship
Amnesty for Illegal Immigrants – The granting of temporary or permanent residence status to persons who have entered in the U.S. in an illegal manner. It is often reserved for persons who face political or religious oppression if they return to their home country.
Annuity – A financial instrument that is similar to a savings account or a CD and is created through an insurance company.
Anti-SLAPP – Anti-Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (Anti-SLAPP) laws prevent a party from bringing a lawsuit against another party with the intent of silencing that party by burying them in litigation.
Antitrust – Antitrust laws attempt to curtail monopolistic business activity and strives to promote a free market economy that provides consumers with a reasonable amount of choice in services, products, and costs.
Appeal – A process by which a party asks a higher court to overturn a lower court’s decision based on legal or procedural error.
Arbitration – A form of alternative dispute resolution by which a neutral third party, agreed upon by the parties to the dispute, hears evidence and arguments from both parties, and decides the appropriate remedy.
Arraignment – The formal appearance of an accused in court for the first time after an arrest or in response to a criminal summons to answer the accusations contained in the complaint or indictment.
Arson – A crime where a person intentionally sets a fire or causes an explosion for the purpose of burning a building or, in some states, any property that belongs to another.
Asbestos – Asbestos is a term for a group of silicate minerals. Silicate is naturally occurring and has been used for decades in construction projects. When inhaled, asbestos can cause injury to the lungs.
Assault and Battery – Assault is placing another person in immediate apprehension of receiving a harmful or offensive touch. Battery is touching another in a harmful or offensive manner. Assault and battery are grounds for both civil and criminal lawsuits.
At-Will Employment – An employment agreement where the employer and/or the employee may terminate the employment relationship at any time, for any reason, as long as the reason is not illegal.
Attorney Malpractice – An attorney commits malpractice when he renders incompetent representation or violates a duty that he owes to his client.
Attorney-Client Privilege – A privilege belonging to the client that makes communications between an attorney and the client confidential.