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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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Cancel: To strike out; to cross out; to annul a document by erasure or by defacing it. When a debt is owed, it is cancelled upon payment.

Candidate: A person seeking an office. In politics, an individual who has been nominated by his party and who will stand election.

Capable: Competent; having legal power; qualified.

Capital gains: Profits from the sale of capital assets in excess of costs and values. Such gains are subject to special taxation, as specified by tax laws.

Capital investment: Moneys spent to increase the worth of an asset.

Capitalize: To estimate the value of a stock; to authorize the issuance of a certain number of stocks and bonds in the charter of a corporation; to supply with capital.

Capture: To seize. The right to possess that which is on one's own property. Thus, an owner captures the oil which lies beneath his land.

Cargo: The goods and merchandise carried by a merchant ship.

Cash flow: An accounting term for the total net income plus moneys allowed for depreciation of equipment and plant.

Cash surrender value: The value of an insurance policy at any specific time before the policy is due. This amount is calculated according to established rules. The insured who is canceling his insurance is entitled to a certain amount of money, determined by how much premium he has paid in during the life of the policy.

Cash value: The amount for which something can be sold in a free market. Also known as market value, fair market value, clear market value.

Certainty: Without the shadow of a doubt; Clarity; particularity; accuracy; distinctness. (The opposite of uncertainty.)

Certificate: A written statement serving as verification and authentication of the fact set forth. Such a document is often signed by a notary public.

Certified check: The signing of a check by a bank officer showing that the depositor has adequate funds to cover the amount of the check.

Certified copy: A copy of a document signifying that it is a true copy. Such copy is certified by the officer to whose custody the original document is entrusted.

Certify: To vouch for the authenticity of something. Certification is often carried out by signing a document, thus attesting to its validity.

Challenge: An obligation; an exception.

Chambers: The private office of a judge or advocate.

Change of beneficiary: Switching a bequest or beneficial interest from one person to another.

Charitable organization: One that issues no capital stock and has nothing in its charter providing for dividends or profits.

Charitable trust: A trust whose assets and income shall benefit the general public, or a significant segment of the public.

Charter: An act of a legislature creating a corporation and setting forth its franchise; also, a document defining the organization of a corporation.

Child support: A legal obligation to financially support one's child.

Children's trust: An arrangement created by a parent, to be effective immediately or, more typically, upon the parent's death, whereby assets of the parent are transferred to a trustee to be held for the benefit of the parent's children.

Choate: Complete; justifiable against other claims; the opposite of inchoate.

Chose: A case of action; chattel or personal property; a personal right; a chose in action.

Citation: A notice of a court proceeding; a writ commanding a person to appear in court on a certain day.

Cite: To summon to appear in court. This is usually carried out by serving the cited individual with a summons. Cite also means to quote or to refer to a preceding case.

Citizen: An inhabitant of a town, city, state, or country, entitled to all its privileges. There are two main types of citizens of a country, namely, the native-born citizen (one born in his country) and the naturalized citizen (one born in a foreign country but who has adopted the citizenship of his present country).

Civil liability: A sum of money assessed against a defendant. It may be single, double, or treble the original amount of the actual damages.

Civil Matter: When a dispute arises between two or more parties, the action procedure or the application procedure ensues.

Civil Union: A partnership between two adults of the same gender. It is similar to a civil marriage in respect of legal formalities.

Claim: A demand for property or money, or its equivalent; an assertion that one is entitled to something or that one owns something.

Clear and convincing proof: Proof beyond a reasonable doubt; evidence that has convinced an unbiased jury, composed of competent, reasonable jurors.

Cleared: Acquitted; forgiven; declared innocent.

Client: Someone who retains or employs an attorney.

Closing: Completing a transaction for the purchase or sale of real estate; making the final argument in a trial.

Co-executor: One of two or more people designated to administer someone's estate; joint executor.

Co-Signer: Someone who signs a document along with another person or persons, often assuming obligations to be shared with the other signers.

Co-Trustee: One of two or more people who jointly hold, manage and distribute property for the benefit of another under a trust; joint trustee.

Code: A collection of laws; the published statutes governing a certain area, arranged in a systematic manner, such as a penal code, sanitary code, etcetera.

Codicil: An addition or supplement to a will. It may also delete or modify various provisions of a will. (Codicils must be witnessed and signed in the same manner as the original will.)

Codicils: An addition or supplement to a will. It may also delete or modify various provisions of a will. (Codicils must be witnessed and signed in the same manner as the original will.)

Cohabitation: The term used to explain an unmarried couple living together in a long-term relationship. A cohabitation agreement may be entered into to regulate their relationship.

Collateral: Property pledged to a creditor to secure a debt.

Command: An order, usually implying that some action must be taken, as directed.

Commingle: To put together into one fund moneys from several different sources.

Commission: An authority; an authorization; a directive from a court authorizing a person or group of persons to exercise some special function or to perform certain specific act.

Commissioner of Oaths: A public official who is authorized to witness signatures on documents, to administer oaths, and to perform other tasks, such as attesting to the genuineness of various papers.

Commit: To send someone to prison, to a mental institution, a reformatory, etcetera, by authority of a court order.

Common stock: Common stock is a form of stock in which the owners have voting powers and rights to participate in the profits of the corporation. However, the rights to profits are subject to any superior rights that may have been granted by the company to the holders of preferred stock.

Community: A society of people living in a particular neighborhood or vicinity. It presupposes common interests.

Compact: A serious, important contract; an agreement setting forth rights and obligations. Compacts often refer to agreements between nations.

Compensation: Remuneration; payment for services rendered; money paid to an injured employee.

Competence: Duly qualified; able; possessing the required legal qualifications.

Competency: The presence of those attributes that makes a witness fit to give testimony; qualifications to perform; capability.

Competent: Duly qualified; able; possessing the required legal qualifications.

Complaint: The pleading by which a plaintiff brings a suit and sets forth the reasons for his action.

Comply: To act in accordance with one's obligations; to yield; to carry into effect; to accommodate.

Compromise: An agreement to make concessions in a dispute or litigation, thus settling outstanding claims. Such arrangement may take place out of court, or in court.

Conclusion: Closing argument.

Concur: To agree; to happen at the same time.

Condemn: To judge guilty; to declare a building unfit for occupancy and to therefore order its destruction; to pass judgment upon someone convicted of a crime.

Conduct: To regulate or to manage and direct. Also, a term meaning behavior, such as good conduct or bad conduct. (A criminal in jail may be given special consideration because of good conduct.)

Confidential information: Information that is received in confidence and therefore should not and can not be revealed, unless the giver of the information approves such revelation.

Confidentiality: The quality of being confidential, privileged, or secret.

Confirmation: A written document stating that certain outstanding matters have been agreed upon and made binding; an affirmation.

Conformity: Resemblance; agreement; correspondence in form or use.

Consent: To voluntarily agree; to permit or approve.

Consequence: The natural result that takes place from an event; that which one would expect to happen. A painful lump on the head is a consequence of a severe blow to the head.

Consequential damages: Loss or injury that results indirectly. As an example, a store owner who has a fire loses not only the goods and fixtures that have been burned, but he loses what he would have earned had there been no fire and he could have continued to sell his merchandise.

Conservator: An individual appointed by a court to have authority over anotherÆs affairs. Depending on the state, a conservator may have authority over property, business, or personal matters.

Consider: To think about, to study or ponder, to examine carefully.

Consideration: 1. A term applied when a matter has been heard and decided; consideration has been given. 2. A matter of contract wherein one party agrees to do something in return for something the other party agrees to give him, such as money, goods, property, etc.

Consign: Delivery of goods from the owner to another party ("consignee") to be sold by the consignee for the benefit of the owner.

Consignment: Delivery of goods from the owner to another party ("consignee") to be sold by the consignee for the benefit of the owner.

Consistent: In agreement with; not contradictory.

Constitution: The Constitution of South Africa; A document containing the fundamental laws governing our country. Also, a document stating the principles and rules by which a society or company or corporation shall be governed.

Constitutional Court: The Constitutional Court of South Africa; the highest Court in South Africa for all Constitutional appeals.

Constraint: Restraint; compulsion; an interference or restraint of free will or of liberty.

Construction: The process of determining the real meaning of a law, or a contract, when its real meaning is somewhat obscure.

Constructive Dismissal: When an employee resigns because their employer's behaviour has become so intolerable which made life difficult for the employee at work, and the employee had no choice but to resign.

Construe: To interpret; to ascertain the meaning of, especially the language of a document.

Construed: To interpret; to ascertain the meaning of, especially the language of a document.

Consumer rights: Legal rights given to purchasers of goods or services for personal use. These rights may be created by federal, state, or local laws and may vary from state to state.

Contemporaneous: Taking place at the same time as another occurrence.

Context: Those parts of a spoken or written passage that precede or follow a specific word, phrase, or sentence. Taking words out of context often alters the meaning of the entire passage or text.

Contingency: The possibility of happening; an event that may occur.

Continuance: The postponement or adjournment of a case pending in court to some future date.

Contract: Two or more people enter into an agreement which has an offer and acceptance, the parties must have an intention to enter into a contract, the parties must have contractual capacity, the rights and duties of the contract must be possible to perform, the purpose of the contract must be lawful, and formalities must be complied with (such as a written contract) where necessary.

Contract: An agreement between two or more people, one party (or parties) agreeing to perform certain acts, the other party (or parties) agreeing to pay for or give other consideration for said performance. A contract places an obligation on one party to do something and an obligation upon the other party to reward the doer.

Contractor: Someone who is engaged to do a job or perform an act but who maintains control over how the job or act is to be carried out. In medical jurisprudence, a surgeon who agrees to perform a certain operation is an independent contractor.

Contributory: In terms of a pension plan, a plan to which both the employer and the employee make contributions.

Controversy: A suit or civil action; an issue appropriate for determination in a court of law. Controversies take place between plaintiffs and defendants.

Conversion: 1. The taking of another's property without permission or cause. It is an unlawful act. 2. In equity, conversion is the exchange of property from real to personal, or vice versa.

Convey: Transfer.

Convict: Someone who has been found guilty of a crime or misdemeanor; to find an accused guilty.

Convincing proof: Proof that is sufficient to establish a charge beyond a reasonable doubt.

Corporate seal: An emblem or symbol of a corporation, often embossed on a corporation's stock or bond certificates, or on a contract of the corporation.

Corporation: A legal entity composed, usually, of a number of people who have joined together for a common purpose. Such legal entities are formed under city, state, or federal laws. Some corporations are public and some are private; some private corporations are organized for profit, others for nonprofit. Private corporations often issue stock to their owners in return for the money they invest.

Counsel: An Advocate; a counselor. To counsel means to advise.

Count: To state or plead a case in court; to argue a case; a particular charge in an indictment.

Court: A governmental body that resolves disputes involving people and/or property. There are Small Claims Courts, Magistrate's Courts, High Courts, Regional Courts, the Supreme Court of Appeal, and the Constitutional Court.

Covenant: A written agreement, signed and notarized, between two or more people, in which one party or parties promises to perform certain acts and the other party or parties agree to recompense him or them for such performance. In other words, a covenant is a binding contract between two or more people. Suits for violation of a covenant are ex contractu, arising out of a written contract.

Coverage: The items or occurrences that an insurance company will pay for if a claim is made; the amount of money that is paid for a loss.

Credibility: The believability of a witness; worthy of belief.

Credit: The ability of someone to borrow, based upon the opinion of the bank, or other lender, as to his capability to repay and his reliability to repay.

Credit Agreement: An agreement where goods are sold or services are rendered, and payment is delayed over a specific period of time subject to a fee, charge or interest. Examples are credit cards, clothing accounts, loans, and mortgage agreements.

Credit Bureau: An organisation that records a list of consumer credit information and ratings, which include good and bad credit information such as defaults on payment/s.

Credit report: A summary of a personÆs past performance and current ability to pay debts, usually prepared by a credit bureau.

Creditor: A person to whom a debt is owed. (The one owing the creditor is known as the debtor.)

Crime: A violation of an existing law or a failure to perform an act required by law.

Criminal: Someone who has committed a crime of a serious nature. The word also means wicked.

Criminal Procedure: Arises when there is criminal activity. When a crime is committed, the matter is reported to the Police, investigations are carried out by an Investigating Officer, and the evidence is given to the National Prosecuting Authority who decides to proceed with or reject the case. If the case proceeds then an arrest or a summons is made to the Accused to appear in court.

Curator: A person appointed by a High Court to administer a person's estate as s/he could not manage their affairs due to mental or physical disability, such as a prodigal, or being under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Cure: To remedy a default or violation.

Current liability: An existing debt; an indebtedness that should be paid off within a year's time.

Current value: The prevailing price or value; the common market price at the place where the commodity originates.

Custodian: An individual employed to safeguard and watch over somebody's property.

Custody: The care and control of property, or of a person or persons. Custody does not necessarily imply ownership. A child may be given over to the custody of a parent or guardian; a prisoner may be held in custody by being placed in jail.

Custom: An oft-repeated mode of conduct; a form of behavior acceptable to the majority of society, such as working five or six days a week. A custom, by its universal adoption and repetition, acquires the importance and effect of a law in a particular community or country.

Customarily: According to the usual order or procedure; in accordance with the industry norm.

Customary Marriage: A marriage concluded in terms of traditional customs and culture of South Africa's indigenous people. A customary marriage can be monogamous or polygamous.

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