A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
acknowledgment
A statement you make in front of a notary public or other person who is authorized to administer oaths stating that a document bearing your signature was actually signed by you.
acquittal
A decision by a judge or jury that a defendant in a criminal case is not guilty of a crime. An acquittal is not a finding of innocence; it is simply a conclusion that the prosecution has not proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
act of God
An extraordinary and unexpected natural event, such as a hurricane, tornado, earthquake or even the sudden death of a person. An act of God may be a defense against liability for injuries or damages. Under the law of contracts, an act of God often serves as a valid excuse if one of the parties to the contract is unable to fulfill his or her duties -- for instance, completing a construction project on time.
act of nature
See act of God.
action
Another term for a lawsuit. For example, a plaintiff might say, "I began this negligence action last fall after the defendant, Ms. Adams, struck me while I was crossing the street at Elm and Main."
actual damages
See damages.
actus reus
Latin for a "guilty act." The actus reus is the act which, in combination with a certain mental state, such as intent or recklessness, constitutes a crime. For example, the crime of theft requires physically taking something (the actus reus) coupled with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the object (the mental state, or mens rea).
ADA
See Americans With Disabilities Act.
ADEA
See Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
ademption
The failure of a bequest of property in a will. The gift fails (is "adeemed") because the person who made the will no longer owns the property when he or she dies. Often this happens because the property has been sold, destroyed or given away to someone other than the beneficiary named in the will. A bequest may also be adeemed when the will maker, while still living, gives the property to the intended beneficiary (called "ademption by satisfaction"). When a bequest is adeemed, the beneficiary named in the will is out of luck; he or she doesn't get cash or a different item of property to replace the one that was described in the will. For example, Mark writes in his will, "I leave to Rob the family vehicle," but then trades in his car in for a jet ski. When Mark dies, Rob will receive nothing. Frustrated beneficiaries may challenge an ademption in court, especially if the property was not clearly identified in the first place.
adjustable rate mortgage (ARM)
A mortgage loan with an interest rate that fluctuates in accordance with a designated market indicator -- such as the weekly average of one-year U.S. Treasury Bills -- over the life of the loan. To avoid constant and drastic fluctuations, ARMs typically limit how often and by how much the interest rate can vary.
administration (of an estate)
The court-supervised distribution of the probate estate of a deceased person. If there is a will that names an executor, that person manages the distribution. If not, the court appoints someone, who is generally known as the administrator. In some states, the person is called the "personal representative" in either instance.
administrative expenses
The trustee's fee, the debtor's attorney fees, and other costs of bringing a bankruptcy case that a debtor must pay in full in a Chapter 13 repayment plan. Administrative costs are typically 10% of the debtor's total payments under the plan.
administrator
A person appointed by a probate court to handle the distribution of property of someone who has died without a will, or with a will that fails to name someone to carry out this task. administrator ad litem A person appointed by a probate court to represent an estate during a lawsuit. (Ad litem is Latin for "during the litigation.") An administrator ad litem is appointed only if there is no existing executor or administrator of the estate, or if the executor or administrator has conflicting interests. For example, Jerry's will leaves most of his property to his brother, Jeff, and also names Jeff as executor of the will. But Jerry's sister, Janine, feels that Jerry made the will under improper pressure from Jeff, and brings a lawsuit to challenge it. The court appoints an administrator ad litem to represent Jerry's estate while the lawsuit is in progress. Also known as administrator ad prosequendum, meaning administrator "during the prosecution." administrator ad prosequendum See administrator ad litem.administrator cum testamento annexo See administrator with will annexed. administrator de bonis non (DBN) Latin for "administrator of goods not administered." This term refers to the person appointed by a probate court to finish probate proceedings when the executor or previous administrator can't finish the job.administrator de bonis non cum testamento annexo (DBNCTA) A baffling title for an administrator appointed by a probate court to take over probate proceedings when the named executor dies, leaving the job unfinished.administrator pendente lite Latin for "administrator pending litigation." This term refers to the person appointed by a court to begin probate proceedings during a lawsuit that challenges the will. The administrator pendente lite takes an inventory of the deceased person's property and handles the business affairs of the estate until the dispute is settled. Also called a special administrator.administrator with will annexed An administrator who takes the place of an executor under a will. The administrator steps in either when a will fails to nominate an executor or the named executor is unable to serve. Also called administrator cum testamento annexo or CTA, the Latin version of "with the will annexed."
administratrix
An outdated term for a female administrator -- the person appointed by a court to handle probate on behalf of someone who died without a will. Now, whether male or female, this person is called the administrator.