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Index of Legal Terms

A definitive collection of legal terms that are used by attorneys in contracts, agreements and other legal documents in South Africa.

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Absolute: Unconditional; complete; final; without any restrictions or conditions.

Acceleration: Causing a debt to become due immediately, before its scheduled date, due to a default.

Accident: An unexpected, unforeseen event. It may be a mishap or a fortunate occurrence.

Accommodation: 1. A favour done without consideration of monetary or other reward. 2. A friendly solving of differences.

Accord: An agreement by two or more parties to settle their differences or claims.

Account: An unsettled claim, based upon dealings that have created a debtor and creditor relationship.

Accounting: A statement or record summarizing all activity regarding a particular activity or item.

Accredited: Recognized as worthy and approved. An accredited law school is one approved by the licensing agencies of the various states.

Accrue: To increase, such as to gain interest that is added to principal.

Acknowledged: A verification that a document was signed voluntarily and intentionally.

Acquainted: Having knowledge of; familiar with.

Acquire: To buy or gain possession of property.

Acquisition: Something that one has purchased, been given as a gift, or has inherited.

Acquit: To declare not guilty; to set free.

Acquittance: A declaration that nothing is owed.

Action Procedure: A civil matter where a letter of demand is sent, summons is delivered by the Sheriff to the Defendant, and pleadings are filed and served (these are documents setting out the parties cases). After a few months once the pleading stage has closed, the trial starts where evidence is given by both parties (the Plaintiff and the Defendant), and a judgment follows in favour or against the Plaintiff.

Adjournment: To conclude a meeting until another time.

Adjustment: A settlement of a claim, often involving the determination of a mutually agreeable compromise sum.

Administration Order: An order made by a Magistrate's Court which indicates the amount that the debtor is obliged to pay to the Administrator, which will be distributed to his/her creditors.

Administrator: A person appointed by a Magistrate's Court, in terms of an Administration Order, to collect and distribute payments from the debtor to his/her creditors.

Adopt: To take as one's own; to approve, such as adopting a law.

Adult: Legal age of majority. In most states, one is an "adult" at age 18.

Advance payment: A payment made before it is due; a payment made early in anticipation of a future debt.

Adverse interest: Interest that displaces one's own interest, partially or completely.

Adversely: Negatively affecting one's interest, right or position.

Advise: To counsel; to give advice; to give notice.

Advocate: A person who has been admitted as an Advocate of the High Court; one who argues cases in Court for clients; one who is briefed by an Attorney.

Affair: A lawsuit; a matter. Also, a love relationship, usually non-marital.

Affidavit: A written statement made under oath before a Notary, Commissioner of Oaths, or Authorised Officer, for example the Police or an Attorney.

Affinity: The ties and relationship between a person and the blood relations of his or her spouse. (A judge is disqualified from a case if he is in any way related to, or has any affinity to, any one of the litigants.)

Affirm: To confirm or ratify; a Court Of Appeals affirms or disaffirms a decision of a lower court.

Affix: To attach to; to sign; to attach one's signature.

Agent: An individual authorized by another to act for her or him; one entrusted with conducting another's business affairs.

Aggregate: The total; the entire sum; the complete amount.

Alimony: The monetary support that one is entitled to from a spouse after a separation or divorce. The Court usually fixes the amount of such alimony.

Allegation: The contention of a party in a lawsuit, including what he intends to prove.

Alleged: Claimed; charged.

Allocate: To allot; to ration; to assign.

Alter: To change, either by increasing or decreasing; an assessment may be altered.

Alternate beneficiaries: Persons who are to receive a gift because the first choice (primary beneficiary) is dead.

Amend: To correct; to change; to alter so as to correct defects in a document.

Amortization: The paying off of an indebtedness through regular instalments. (A mortgage on property is amortized over a period of years through regular payments.)

Ancestor: A person from whom one is descended; a progenitor. (Specifically, a parent, grandparent, great-grandparent, etc.)

Ancillary administration: A proceeding in a locality where a deceased person owned property, but which is a different locality from the one in which the estate is being administered.

Annex: To join; to attach.

Annual: Yearly; occurring once a year.

Annuity: A yearly payment, usually paid by an insurance company to an insured. The annuity may be for a certain specified number of years or for life.

Annulled: Dissolved or voided.

Annulment: The act of cancelling something; making it void. An annulment of marriage is a legal decision that the marriage never existed. (An annulment is not a divorce.)

Ante-Nuptial Contract (ANC): An agreement that arranges the parties' estates and financial consequences in respect of their desired civil union or civil marriage.

Anticipation: The right to pay off a mortgage before it is due, without the payment of a penalty for such action.

Appeal: The request for a review by a higher court of a verdict or decision made by a lower court.

Appearance: The actual presence in court of the defendant and plaintiff in a suit. (By making an appearance, the parties to the suit place themselves within the authority of the court.)

Appellate court: A court with the authority to review the handling and decision of a case tried in a lower court.

Append: To attach or add.

Applicant: Someone who files a petition or makes an application; a petitioner; a person who applies for a legal remedy to his problem.

Application Procedure: The court's judgment is based on papers placed before it. The parties (the Applicant and/or the Respondent) go to court and the documents are considered without evidence being delivered. It may be opposed or unopposed.

Appraisal: An evaluation of the worth of property. When ordered by a court, such estimation of value may be carried out by one or more reputable, qualified, disinterested parties.

Appropriation: The act of taking control of something, such as the taking over of private property for public use.

Approval: The act of agreeing and sanctioning.

Arbitration: The submission by two contesting parties of their disagreement to an impartial arbitrator, usually agreeing that his ruling in the dispute will be binding and final.

Arbitrator: A disinterested person, chosen by the parties in a dispute, who will hear the details of the dispute and who will render a decision as to how the dispute shall be settled.

Argument: A presentation in a legal case that attempts to convince people that their contentions are right.

Armed force: A posse; a group of armed civilians authorized by the official peace officers of the community to aid in the capture of criminals and the prevention of crime.

Arrest: The taking of a person into custody by an officer of the law. To deny an individual his personal liberty by placing him under the jurisdiction of the law.

Articles: The various provisions of a law, an ordinance, or a contractual agreement. (a partnership agreement, for example, may contain many articles or clauses making up the total arrangement.)

Articles of Incorporation: The document by which a corporation is formed and organized under the corporation laws of the state. (Each state has its own laws of incorporation.)

As between: The relative position of two people in reference to a third person, with one party having a different relationship from the other in regard to the third person.

As is: An expression denoting the fact that goods are being sold in the condition the seller has stated they were in. Such goods are sold as is. (It is the purchaser's responsibility to discover if such goods are damaged.)

Ascertain: To find out; to make certain, without doubt.

Assert: To declare; to maintain; to charge as true.

Assess: To fix the value of something. (Private property is assessed in order to determine the amount of taxes to be paid.)

Assessed: To fix the value of something. (Private property is assessed in order to determine the amount of taxes to be paid.)

Assets: Property of any kind.

Assign: Transfer to another. In the context of a lease, the transfer by a lessee to another person of all of the lessee's interest in the leased property; an assignment differs from a sublease in that a sublease does not transfer all of the lessee's rights in the property.

Assignable: Negotiable; transferable.

Assigning: Transferring to another. In the context of a lease, the transfer by a lessee to another person of all of the lessee's interest in the leased property; an assignment differs from a sublease in that a sublease does not transfer all of the lessee's rights in the property.

Assignment: The transfer of property from one person to another.

Associate: An attorney practising with another attorney, or with a firm of attorneys, but not as a partner or member of the firm.

Association: A group of people who have formed an organization to pursue a common purpose.

Assumption: The act of assuming responsibility; the act of taking for granted; the act of adopting an obligation.

Assurance: Insurance.

Assured: Insured.

At law: According to law. (This implies that an issue depends upon an existing law, not upon equity or fairness.)

Attest: To state to be true; to bear witness to.

Attorney: A person practising as an Attorney; one who gives legal advice to people; one who represents clients in a lawsuit.

Attorney general: The chief law officer of a state or of a nation.

Auction: A sale, open to the public, of items and property sold to the highest bidder.

Authorise: To empower someone to act; to give the authority for someone to carry out a certain act.

Authorised: To empower someone to act; to give the authority for someone to carry out a certain act.

Authority: 1. The power and right to do a certain act. 2. A person who has been given certain powers and rights.

Autopsy: Necropsy. The examination of a dead body by a pathologist for the purpose of finding the cause of death. Also known as a post-mortem examination.

Award: The decision of arbitrators in giving moneys to a party who has claimed damages; the awarding of money to a worker injured during the course of his work. This latter award is said to be a compensation award.

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