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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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Majority: 1. The major portion of; more than one-half. 2. The age at which someone is legally regarded as an adult, and therefore able to consummate a contract, vote, and marry without parental consent.

Mandate: An order or command (oral or written) that must be obeyed; a judicial command directing enforcement of the court's decision.

Mandatory: Compulsory; something one must do; not a matter to be acted upon only if one wishes to; obligatory.

Margin: The actual amount of money one must pay toward the purchase of a stock when buying on margin. Such sum is only part of the total cost of the security, with the broker having the right to receive the balance should the value of the stock decline markedly.

Marital deduction: The amount of money a wife or husband can inherit without paying estate taxes. For federal tax purposes, such deduction is equal to no more than one-half of the gross estate.

Market price: The price at which a seller is willing to sell and a buyer is willing to buy.

Marriage: A contractual arrangement between a woman and man that they shall live together as wife and husband. The proof of such a union is usually certified by registering a marriage certificate in a public hall of records.

Matter: The subject of a legal dispute or lawsuit; the substance of the issues being litigated; the facts that go into the prosecution or defense of a claim.

Maturity: 1. The end of the time period agreed upon for a loan or obligation, after which time the loan or obligation is due and must be paid. 2. The attainment of adulthood. A child is said to reach maturity when he or she attains 18 or 21 years of age.

Maxim: Principles and rules generally recognized and accepted because they have been in use and have proved to be fair and reasonable over long periods of time.

Medallion Guaranteed: A method of authenticating the identiy of a person signing a document, similar to, but of a higher level than, a notary public

Mediation: A process that parties in a dispute must follow to settle the matter before it goes to court. An objective person (the Mediator) decides on its outcome.

Medical records: Written material about the patient, including office and hospital charts, X rays, laboratory data, etcetera, detailing a patient's medical history and past and present illnesses. Medical records are the property of the physician or hospital, not the patient. However, medical records are subject to subpoena in cases involving medicolegal matters.

Meeting: The gathering together of a group of people to discuss matters in which they share common interest; an assembly; a convention.

Menace: To threaten harm.

Mental competence: A state in which one is in possession of one's mental faculties and capable of the usual normal ability to express oneself. A mentally competent person recognizes right from wrong, is well-oriented, and is able to stand trial or to serve as a witness.

Mental illness: A disorder of the mind, whether of physical or emotional origin.

Mental incompetence: The opposite of mental competence.

Minor: A male or female who is under the age of legal competency and rights, usually considered to be 21 years old but now frequently regarded as 18 years; a person too young to make a legal contract.

Minutes: A recording of what takes place during a trial, made by the court clerk, or the record of proceedings of a grand jury, etcetera.

Misconduct: Improper behaviour; conduct that breaks a law or is contrary to established practice.

Misrepresentation: A statement that is untrue and not consistent with the facts. Misrepresentation may be innocent if a person thinks he is telling the truth; it is termed negligent misrepresentation if someone fails to find out the truth. Misrepresentation is fraudulent if there is intent to deceive and not tell the truth.

Mitigate: To lessen, as in reducing the punishment of a convicted person or decreasing the amount of damages a plaintiff may have been awarded. Also, to reduce the charges, such as from first-degree murder to manslaughter, because of extenuating circumstances.

Modification: A change or alteration in matters under discussion and at issue. Modification may take the form of addition or deletion of new elements in the involved issue, but it usually does not change the main thrust of the involved issue or matter under consideration.

Monetary: Referring to money; pecuniary.

Money order: An order for the payment of money, as issued by one post office or bank to another post office or bank. (A person in one city may obtain money from a bank or post office in another city if the bank or post office in the original city issues a money order.)

Moral: A principle for deciding what is right and what is wrong; virtuous; law abiding; adhering to society's concept of righteousness.

Mortgage: The putting up of land or a building, or both, as security against a loan of money. Should the person who obtains the mortgage fail to pay off the loan as prescribed in the mortgage contract, the lender will take title and possession to the property.

Motion: An oral or written application to a court or a judge for a ruling or order. In most instances, the motion requests a ruling to be made in favour of the one making the motion (the applicant).

Move: To move is to make a motion before a court, an application for a court to take a certain action.

Municipal: Pertaining to the local government of a city or town.

Mutual: Agreeable to both parties; reciprocal; carried out together; the exchanging of similar duties and obligations by two or more people.

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