Legal Glossary

Glossary of Legal Terms

341 hearing: Mandatory hearing concern income levels that is required for any debtor filing for either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.

521 documents: These documents include sixty days’ worth of proof of income, for the sixty days prior to filing. This typically includes pay stubs and the prior year’s tax return, or return last filed. In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, this includes four years’ of prior tax returns.


Active Duty: Full-time military service for one of the five groups of Armed Forces (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard) or two other uniformed services (the Commissioned Corp of the Public Health Service, or the Commissioned Officer Corp of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA]).

Activities of Daily Living (ADL): These are basic tasks of everyday life, such as eating, bathing, dressing, toileting, and transferring from sitting to standing. A person’s ability when it comes to ADLs is an important factor in determining availability of public assistance benefits.

Actual Cash Value (ACV): For insurance purposes this is the fair market value or the replacement cost (less depreciation) to replace the damaged item with a similar quality item or repair the property with a comparable material.

Additional Services:
Services that may be provided by the architect, and yet are not included in the agreed-upon price for the basic services.

Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA): Federal law that makes it illegal to discriminate against employees who are age forty and older and applies to employers with twenty or more employees.

ADEA Waiver: Document which employers ask employees to sign upon termination that provides that the employee “waives” the right to sue the employer based on age discrimination. Federal law, under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, spells out what this waiver must provide to be legally enforceable.

Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal: A judge’s order giving conditions for a person arrested to fulfill that will result in dismissing the case if he or she is not rearrested.

Adjudication: A formal legal process, such as going to court, to resolve a dispute.

Administrator/Administratrix: Person appointed by a court to oversee the administration of an estate and wrapping up a person’s affairs. If the person is male he is an administrator, and if female, an administratrix.

Agent/Attorney-in-fact: Person appointed in a “durable power of attorney” to act in another’s place.

Aid & Attendance (A & A): An increased pension amount that is awarded to Veterans who require assistance with activities of daily living or have other disabilities.

Allowance: An item in the contract price that hasn’t been finally determined and thus the price for that item remains open.

Alternative Educational Setting (AES): A place, such as a community library, where a student may receive educational services on an interim basis when not permitted to attend school, because of disciplinary or other issues.

American Institute of Architects (AIA): Publishes standard form agreements used by architects.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Federal law which prohibits discrimination on the basis of a person’s disability.

Ancillary Probate: When a person dies in one state and owns real property (real estate) in another, ancillary probate is needed to change the deed to the property in the other state.

Animal Control Officers (ACOs): Law enforcement officials who are specially trained to handle animal-related issues in their communities, usually at the level of county government.

Appeal: Request to a higher (appellate) court to review and change the decision of a lower court.

Arbitration: An alternative dispute resolution method that involves streamlined procedures for submitting evidence and in which a neutral third party called an arbitrator makes a decision according to law and based on the evidence submitted.

Arraignment: After an arrest, this is the accused’s first appearance before a judge, where he is charged with the crime.

Arrest Warrant: This is a document signed by a judge or a judicial magistrate that allows the police to arrest a person. To obtain an arrest warrant, officers must present sufficient facts to constitute probable cause for the arrest.

Asset Case: A Chapter 7 bankruptcy that includes more property than can be protected.

Attorney-in-Fact/Agent: Person appointed in a “durable power of attorney” to act in another’s place.

“At Will” Employment: This means your employer can fire you at any time without notice and you may quit at any time without notice.

Automatic stay: Period after a bankruptcy is filed during which notified creditors cannot try to collect on any debts or pursue new garnishments.


Bail: Security posted to guarantee a criminal defendant will return to court for his/her next court date if released from jail while the case is still pending. Forms of bail are either cash or bond.

Bar date: A deadline established ninety days after a 341 hearing by which creditors must file claims.

Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP): A BIP addresses problem behaviors that the student has, or may engage in, and includes positive behavioral interventions, supports and strategies.

Bench Trial: Trial where there is no jury and the case is presented before a judge.

Bench Warrant: A type of arrest warrant, signed by a judge, which authorizes your arrest for failing to show up at a scheduled court date.

Beneficiary: A person designated to receive a gift, inheritance or property. A beneficiary can be named in a Will, under a life insurance designation form or another legal document.

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt: Standard of proof used in a criminal trial. This is a difficult burden to prove as compared with the standard used in a civil trial which is typically by a “preponderance” of the evidence.

Bona Fide Occupational Qualification (BFOQ): Relates to whether an aspect of a job is essential for purposes of determining whether a person meets job requirements. An employer would have a BFOQ if it required female models for a fashion show of women’s clothes.

Breed-specific Legislation: Laws restricting and/or prohibiting ownership of certain breeds of dogs as a way to decrease dog-related violence. Breeds generally identified in BSL include the German Shepherd Dog, Rottweiler and the “bully breeds” such as the American Staffordshire Terrier and other “pitbull” type dogs.

Business Necessity: Relates to whether an employer’s policy for a particular job description or requirement is needed because of the business. Skyscraper window washers cannot be afraid of heights is an example of business necessity.

Buyout: Part of a bankruptcy which enables a debtor to buy back property from the trustee for the difference between its value and the exemption amount, or some other negotiated amount.


Certificate of Good Conduct: Document designed for individuals convicted of more than one crime who have demonstrated rehabilitation. This certificate may ameliorate the impact of convictions.

Certificate of Occupancy: A document issued by a local building or zoning authority which indicates that construction has complied with fire, electrical and other building code requirements so that the building is safe for habitation.

Certificate of Relief from Civil Disabilities: This document is issued by the state and allows for certain eligible offenders to apply to the court to be relieved from disabilities or bars to employment that may result from their previous convictions.

Challenge for Cause: Disqualification of a juror from jury panel.

Change Order: A written or oral agreement between you and your contractor to change some aspect of the scope of work under your construction contract.

Circumstantial Evidence: Proof that tends to establish a fact, often when pieced together with other evidence.

Civil Rights Act of 1964: Federal law which made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin or gender.

COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act): Mandates that employees and their families be provided with continued health coverage after termination of employment, or upon the happening of other events (e.g., divorce). The employee must pay for this coverage at his or her own expense.

Code of Federal Regulations (CFR): Administrative rules to implement federal laws.

Codicil: An amendment to a Will that must be executed with the same formalities as a Will.

Combat Veterans: Veterans who served in a theater of combat operations after November 11, 1998, also have special eligibility for VA health care (e.g. free health care for 5 years from date of discharge).

Community Property: Legal system of property ownership in certain states which mandates that spouses own an undivided 50% share of all property owned by either during the course of a marriage.

Compassionate Allowances: Medical conditions or diagnoses which meet the social security definition of disability.

Compensation Statement: Reflects amount of attorney fees in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing.

Competitive Bidding: Architectural plans prepared for “bid” are circulated to contractors to get bids on a project.

Complainant/Complaining Witness: This refers to an alleged victim of a crime whose testimony is material to the case.

Conservator: This refers to someone who is appointed to make decisions about an incapacitated person’s finances and assets/property.

Cosigners: Those who contractually agree to make payments when the debtor cannot.
Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC):

Constructive Discharge: When a person is forced to quit a job because an employer’s illegal conduct has forced him or her to leave.

Contingency Fees: Legal fees paid to lawyers out of the insurance recovery and are only paid when you recover.

Cost-plus Contract:
Construction contract that doesn’t fix price at the outset. Instead contractor gets reimbursed for all expenses incurred in constructing the project plus his or her fee.

Coverages: Section of an insurance policy which lists which losses (if caused by an “occurrence”) are covered.

Cram down: Part of a repayment plan which essentially refinances an existing debt during the repayment plan period for low or no interest, based on the current value of the asset.

Credit Counseling Certificate: Document which must be filed with the court to prove the debtor attended the required credit counseling or debt education classes.

Creditor matrix: Form filed with the bankruptcy petition which indicates all of the debtor’s creditors and their addresses.

Crimes: Generally refers to misdemeanors or felonies where a defendant can serve jail time. Other infractions, such as littering or traffic tickets, which involve a fine, are often referred to as offenses.

Cross Examination: The chance to question the witness/evidence at a civil or a criminal trial to prove that the witness is lying and/or reduce the evidence’s credibility.


Dangerous Dog: A dog that has been determined by a court to be dangerous in the community. The dog has been involved in one or more incidents where it has attacked, mauled or killed another dog, animal or human.

Death Certificate: Legal document which proves a person has died. It is issued by the coroner, hospital or other party handling the human remains.

Debtor: The individual or individuals who are filing bankruptcy A business can also be a debtor.

Debtor education class: Required class a debtor must attend and obtain a certificate of completion for, to qualify for a bankruptcy discharge.

Decedent: Legal word for a person who has died.

Deductibles: Amount of loss you must incur out of pocket before an insurance claim is paid.

Deed: Document of title in connection with real property (e.g. real estate, homes, land).

Deliberation: Post-trial process when the jury reviews the evidence presented and reaches a decision in the case.

Depreciation: Value lost over time through normal aging, wear and tear, maintenance or neglect, and obsolescence. It can be calculated differently for tax and insurance purposes.

Design-Build Agreement: Renovation contract entered with an architectural firm that also does general contracting work.

Desk Appearance Ticket (DAT): Given at the discretion of the police for persons arrested for minor crimes, such as disorderly conduct. In lieu of arraignment at the time of arrest, the DAT requires an accused to return to court on a specific date for arraignment of the charges.

Dependency & Indemnity Compensation (DIC): Tax-free monetary compensation paid to eligible survivors of Veterans whose death was service-related or to eligible survivors of service members who died in the line of duty.

Direct Evidence: Proves a fact, without any other information. For example, a file of attendance records shows the employer kept attendance records.

Direct Examination: When the prosecutor or defendant’s attorney questions his/her own witnesses during a trial (criminal or civil.)

Disability Compensation: Benefits program for Veterans with service-connected disabilities to compensate them for the loss/ decline in economic earnings due to the injury suffered. The VA rates the injuries in multiples of 10 from 1 to 100%.

Disability Determination Services (DDSs): The DDSs are state agencies, funded by the federal government, responsible for collecting medical evidence and making the initial disability determination.

Disability ratings: A percentage rating system in increments of 10% from 0 to 100 %; numbers represent amount of impairment in earning capacity Veteran suffers from as a result of the injury.

Discharge: This term signifies the elimination of debt through bankruptcy.

Discharge Forms: DD-214 – Form that is issued by military officials upon service member’s departure from active duty service. Characterization of discharge, particularly as honorable other than dishonorable, or dishonorable, is very important for receiving Veterans benefits. DD-215 – Form that is used to correct errors or make additions to a DD Form 214.

Discrimination: In the employment context, discrimination occurs when a person who is in a “protected” class is treated less favorably than others upon hiring, during employment or upon termination.

Disparate Impact: Term to describe an employment policy that looks fair and neutral but is not. It is a legal term used to describe whether illegal discrimination is present.

Disparate Treatment: Treating similarly situated employees differently. Legal term used to assess whether illegal discrimination is present.

DNR (Do Not Resuscitate): Legal document which instructs medical personnel concerning a person’s wishes concerning resuscitation and intubation in connection with end-of-life care.

Domestic Support Obligation Disclosure: A form disclosing whether the debtor has any domestic support obligations, whether those obligations are timely, and the current employment status of the debtor.

Domicile: Your primary legal residence which is the place you always plan to return to. This becomes important if you live in two states or in the U.S. and/or overseas.

Domiciliary: For VA purposes, a residential treatment facility that emphasizes rehabilitation and return to the community for Veterans who require some medical care, but not all services provided at nursing homes.

Domiciliary Care for Homeless Veterans (DCHV): An active clinical rehabilitation and treatment program, integrated with mental health residential rehabilitation and treatment programs.

Double Jeopardy: The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that prohibits anyone from being prosecuted twice for the same crime.

Driving While Intoxicated (DWI)/ Driving Under the Influence (DUI): Crimes for driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol.

Due Execution: Proper compliance with legal formalities (such as witnesses and notarization of a signature) when a document is signed.

Due Process Hearing: An administrative hearing presided over by an independent hearing officer, concerning a failed IEP, at which the school district and the parents can offer information and evidence to facilitate a determination.

Durable Power of Attorney: This legal document grants your agent’s authority to act on your behalf, even if you become mentally impaired or disabled with diseases like dementia or Alzheimer’s.


Early Intervention: Process by which young children, already identified with a physical or mental condition that has a high probability of causing, or having caused, a developmental delay, are provided services.

Efficient Proximate Cause: Basis to exclude coverage for a loss because the nearest or most directly responsible cause of the damage is excluded.

Elder Law: Legal concerns that become important to people as they age, roughly those age sixty plus; can refer to estate planning, Medicaid planning, long term health planning, asset protection, elder abuse, age discrimination and other areas of law that deal with aging.

Emotional Service Animals (ESA): Provide comfort, and not to perform tasks, for a person with a psychiatric disability. Dogs whose only functions are to provide emotional support do not qualify as Service Dogs under the ADA and are not provided full access in public places.

Endorsement: A separate legal document added to an insurance contract that provides additional or different terms. It is sometimes called a “rider.”

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC): Federal agency that oversees federal laws related to workplace discrimination and has a complaint-and-hearing process for discrimination claims.

Equal Pay Act (EPA): Federal law that requires employers to pay men and women at the same rate for equal work.

Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA):
Establishes standards and requirements for employers who provide pensions/retirement benefits for employees.

Essential Job Function: Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, even a person with a disability must still be able to do the job, with or without a disability. If the job is to be a seamstress, the ability to sew is an essential job function.

Estate: All manner of assets or interests that a person owns and leaves behind at death.

Estate Administration: The process of wrapping up the affairs of a person who has died.

Estate Administrator: The person responsible for wrapping up the affairs of a person who has died without a Will.

Estate Tax: A tax levied by the federal government and or states, on the amount of assets that a person owns at death; also sometimes called a “death tax.”

Examination Under Oath (EUO): Sworn statements that have the same weight as testimony in court.

Exclusions: Section of the insurance policy that lists the types of loss that are specifically not covered under the policy.

Execute: To sign a document with certain formalities, such as witnesses and notarized signatures, so that it is legally binding.

Person designated in a Will to oversee the administration of the estate and distribution of assets to the next rightful owners. If the person is a male, he is referred to as an executor; if female, an executrix.

Exemptions: Specific property and/or value limits for property that may be retained by a debtor and unavailable to creditors according to federal or state law. The amount varies depending on where the debtor files.

Exotic Animal: Cats and dogs are considered domesticated animals. Exotics can include typically non-domesticated animals such as bears, big cats and venomous snakes. Federal and state laws apply to the ownership, importation and transfer of exotic animals.

Extended School Year (ESY): Refers to providing certain services beyond the school year, if regression by the student is anticipated because of summer or school vacations.


Failure to Appear (FTA): A crime, also known as “bail jumping,” which an arrested person commits when he or she fails to return for a future court date, after being released on bail.

Federal Rehabilitation Act: Law that prevents those receiving federal funding from discriminating against those with disabilities. Mandates “accommodations” for those with disabilities in certain situations including education.

Federal Poverty Level (FPL): Sets the standard for eligibility based on income under federal programs including Medicaid.

Felony: A serious crime for which a sentence of imprisonment is either in excess of one year or a death sentence.

Fiduciary: One held to a high standard of care in dealing with property on behalf of another. Trustees and executors are examples of fiduciaries.

Fiduciary Powers: Permissions given to executors and trustees to enable them to manage the property under their care. These can include the ability to buy and sell property, have discretion in distributing assets to heirs, or managing a family-run business. These powers are granted under state law and can be added to by special agreement between private parties.

Force-placed/Lender Policies: Insurance purchased to protect a lender’s insurable interest in property you own.

Forma Pauperis Motion: A motion to waive filing fees for bankruptcy court because the debtor is living below the poverty level.

Free, Appropriate Public Education (FAPE): The standard used in the context of disabled children and to which all children are entitled by law to receive.


Garnishment: When creditors receive payments directly from a paycheck or bank account because they have a court order or consent from the debtor to do so.

General Bequest: A bequest of general assets such as “one-half of my estate.”

Generation-skipping Transfer Tax (GST): A tax imposed on assets which are made to a generation, once removed, from the person making the gift.

Geographic Means Test (GMT): Median family income levels which vary based on location in the U.S.

Grantor/Settlor/Creator/Trustor: This refers to the person who sets up a trust.

Grantor Trusts: Trusts set up and managed by a person who can use the property as if it is his or her own. Often these trusts are set up for tax purposes.

Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP): Type of construction contract which shifts risk to the contractor by establishing a ceiling price which cannot be exceeded without agreement on a change order.

Guardian: A person appointed to care for a minor child or incapacitated person who cannot manage his or her own affairs. May be court appointed.

Guardian-ad-litem (GAL): A GAL is an independent third-party whose role is to make sure your child’s best interests are being served.


Health Care Proxy: Document that appoints a person to act in one’s place to make health care decisions. The person is referred to as a “health care proxy” or “agent.”

Hearing: A proceeding before a court or other decision-making body where evidence is heard and/or an issue as to law or fact is decided. There are many types of hearings in the legal system.

Heir: A person who would inherit your estate in the event you die without a Will.

Home- and Community-based Waiver (HCBW): Medicaid waiver that allows recipients to receive respite, personal attendant, adult rehabilitation, and other services usually provided in a nursing home or long-term care facility at home or in the community.

Hostile Workplace Environment: Work environment where harassment or discrimination is so severe or pervasive that a reasonable person would consider it abusive, hostile or intimidating.

Housebound (pension): For VA purposes, an increased pension amount that is awarded to Veterans who are substantially confined to their residences due to permanent disabilities.

Hung Jury: When a jury in a trial cannot reach a verdict. If unanimous agreement is required to convict, and is not obtained, a hung jury results.


Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): Law enacted in 1975 mandating that states provide special education for those with disabilities.

IDEA Disabilities: Disabilities covered by IDEA include autism, deafness, deaf-blindness, hearing impairment, mental retardation, multiple disabilities, speech or language impairment, traumatic brain injury, blindness, specific learning disability and a serious emotional disturbance.

Indemnification: A clause to make you whole for personal injury or property damage due to another’s negligence, errors or omissions in performing services.

Independent Adjuster: Impartial professional who works for an outside company (not your carrier) and reports on amount and extent of damage.

Independent Contractor: This is a term of art which refers to a person who is not an employee and works as an outside hire for an employer. Independent contractors (under the tax definition) pay their own social security (employment taxes), benefits and tax withholding. They typically receive no employee benefits such as paid vacation or worker’s compensation.

Individual Education Plan (IEP): A plan formulated by a school district to address a child’s educational needs. It’s a road map of sorts to enable a child to make progress.

Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP): An early intervention plan formulated for a young (preschool age child) to assist with developmental challenges exhibited or anticipated because of the child’s needs.

Individualized Services Plan (ISP): This plan is created for a special needs student who has been parentally placed in a private school. This plan typically provides fewer services, and less protection, than an IEP.

Instruments of Service: Generally refers to an architect’s plans and specifications.

Insurance Bad Faith: Insurance companies owe their policyholders a duty of good faith and fair dealing. When an insurance company breaches this duty, it has engaged in insurance bad faith and you may have a claim in court.

Inter-vivos Trust: Trust you create during your life to own, manage, and distribute property. It can terminate or continue on, after you die.

Intestacy: When someone dies without a Will, he is said to die “intestate,” which means without a Will. Each State has laws of “intestacy” that spell out who gets what if there’s no Will. These beneficiaries are called “next of kin” or “heirs at law” in many states.

Intestate/Intestacy: The status of dying without a Will.

Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust: A trust created to own life insurance and avoid estate tax.


Juvenile Delinquency: Generally refers to a child committing an act, which if committed by an adult, would be a crime.


Least Restrictive Environment: This mandate requires that Pre-K children, entitled to FAPE be educated alongside children without disabilities to the maximum extent possible.

Legatee: A person or organization to whom you leave a bequest.

Length of Service Requirement : A minimum time period that a Veteran must serve in order to qualify for benefits. Length of service requirements vary for different benefit programs.

Level of Care (LOC): Daily level of care required for your child to be eligible to receive TEFRA Medicaid. Must meet level of care provided in an acute care hospital, nursing facility, intermediate care facility for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities or an inpatient psychiatric hospital.

Lien: Liens are security for the repayment of a debt. A judgment lien secures property owed to a creditor after a successful court proceeding against the debtor. Liens are also placed against property through a mortgage (on real estate) or loan terms (e.g., car loan).

Lien Waiver: A written statement by a contractor, subcontractor or supplier waiving the signor’s legal right to file a lien against your property as security for a debt.

Limited Power of Attorney: This document gives your agent the authority to act on your behalf only in specifically defined situations.

Liquidated Damages: Amount of damages negotiated in advance in lieu of calculating actual damages.

Litigation: A lawsuit or proceeding in a court of law presided over by a judge.

Living Trust: A type of trust created to own, manage and distribute assets while you are alive. This type of trust is often referred to as a “Will substitute” because it can also pass assets on death. Assets in these trusts avoid probate but are included in an estate for estate tax purposes.

Living Will: Legal document that states end-of-life care wishes. It is the “pull the plug” document and should not be confused with a Will or Living Trust.

Long-term Care (LTC): Refers to insurance which pays benefits in the event nursing home or long term home health care is needed.


Major Life Activities: Under the Americans With Disabilities Act, a person is deemed to have a disability if there is an impairment which “substantially limits” a major life activity. These include things like walking, standing, talking and caring for oneself, as well as major body functions such as kidneys, circulation and breathing.

Marital Trust: A trust set up for a spouse often to manage assets in a way to qualify the trust for an estate tax marital deduction.

Maximum Annual Pension Rates (MAPRs): A calculation of the money the VA pays a Veteran per year for a pension benefit based on his or her annual income.

Mechanic’s Lien: A recorded claim against improved real property by a contractor, subcontractor, laborer or material supplier asserting that money is owed to them. They will affect title transfers if not resolved.

Median income: A state’s threshold value in determining eligibility for bankruptcy filings in that state.

Mediation: Non-binding alternative dispute-resolution method in which a neutral third party called a mediator assists two or more parties to negotiate a settlement of their dispute.

Medicaid: Joint federal and state program that provides medical benefits to low-income, disabled and certain other populations.

Medical Payments Coverage: Insurance clause concerning payment of medical expenses of someone injured on your property.

Means test: A calculation used to determine financial eligibility, for example, in qualifying for Veterans benefits or filing for bankruptcy.

Means test: Calculation required to be submitted to bankruptcy court to prove that a filer’s income limits qualify for bankruptcy filing.

Misdemeanor: A less serious crime which carries a maximum prison sentence of one year or less.

Military Honors: The ceremony at a Veteran’s funeral during which at least two honor guard members play taps (either with a live bugler or CD), present and fold the U.S. flag, and may also include a rifle volley.

Military retiree: Service members or former service members who are entitled to retirement or retainer payments after serving for the statutorily required number of years (e.g. usually twenty years, but can be up to thirty years for full retirement pay).

Moral Turpitude: Refers to a crime which violates the accepted and customary rule of right and duty between one another, based on community values/standards.

Motion to Suppress Evidence: A motion brought in court to prevent evidence from being used against a defendant.


National Cemetery Association (NCA): Department of the VA which overseas burial and memorial benefits.

National Guard members: Members of state-controlled military units of the Army and the Air Force who complete basic training, return to live at home in civilian life, and train with their units for at least one weekend per month. National Guard members are partially equipped by the federal government, and can be called to assist for national or local emergencies or times of need.

Non-community Property (“common law”): System of property ownership where a person owns property based on title to that property individually and not as a result of marital status.

Notarize: To legally verify a signature by requiring signers to produce identification that they are the person claimed. A notary may witness the signature or receive acknowledgement that the person producing identification has signed it and verifies the signature, in a manner prescribed by state law.

Notice of Disagreement (NOD): A document that must be filed to contest a benefit claim that has been denied.

Notice of Filing: Form which must accompany filings in bankruptcy court to alert all interested parties about filings in the connection with a case.


Objection: Motion filed to disagree with a court filing or request.

Occurrence: An accident or unexpected event.

Order of Protection (also known as a “Restraining Order”): A court-issued order to protect the safety of the complainant (or a witness). It lists behavior and actions the person named is forbidden from doing.

Other Health Impaired (OHI): A catchall category that includes disabilities that do not fit into other disabilities categories. These can include things like ADD and ADHD, as well as physical disabilities such as cerebral palsy and spina bifida.


Parole: The release of a person from prison prior to the end of the completion of a sentence with certain terms and conditions.

Pension: For VA purposes, a needs-based program for Veterans who are age sixty-five or older and have served during wartime, or are totally and permanently disabled.

Periods of War/Wartime: Specific time periods of war designated by Congress and recognized by the VA. Eligibility for many Veterans benefits is based on warti.

Peremptory Challenge: Elimination of a potential juror for non-stated reasons.

Personal Liability Coverage: Insurance clause concerning payment of claims when someone is injured on your property and you are legally at fault.

Pet Trust: A trust created to provide the care of your pet after you die or while you are incapacitated.

Plea Bargain: A process where the criminal defendant and the prosecutor reach a compromise to avoid a trial.

Pooled Income Trust: Special type of trust which can be used by special needs individuals to qualify and pay for benefits for their care.

Post Mortem: “Mortem” means death and “post mortem” means “after death.” This phrase is typically used to refer to actions taken after a person dies. For example, post mortem tax planning may refer to ways to reduce estate taxes.

Power of Appointment: An ability given in a trust, Will or other legal document which affords you the right to determine who gets property.

Power of Attorney (Durable): Legal document which appoints another to act in one’s place if certain conditions are met and with respect to certain transactions. “Durable” refers to the fact that the document remains in effect despite the onset of a mental disability.

Predecease: To die before another person. When someone dies before another they are said to have “predeceased” that person.

Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA): Prohibits employers from discriminating against women on the basis of their pregnancy.

Priority debts: Debts that cannot be eliminated in bankruptcy and must be paid first. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, this includes child support and recent tax debt. It is reported on a Schedule E during the bankruptcy filing.

Probate: The legal proceeding that determines the validity of a Will and oversees the process of administering an estate in accordance with the directions in the Will.

Probate Assets: Assets left under a Will.

Probable cause: A level of reasonable belief, based on facts that can be articulated, that a criminal act was committed.

Procedural Safeguards: A statement that lists the family’s rights under the IDEA. These include the right to be on the team and get notice of all meetings, provide written consent (or not) to assessments, mediation, a due process hearing and free services.

Proof of Loss: A sworn statement attesting to the damages with specifics on what caused the loss, who owns the property and dollar amounts for each item of the damage claimed.

Protected Class: A group of persons defined by a shared characteristic (e.g., age, national origin, gender) who are frequently discriminated against, and for which federal and/or state laws provide redress.

Public Adjuster: An independent adjuster (not employed by the insurer) who reviews the damage, documentation and insurance policy, and then prepares an estimate and negotiates a payment amount with the insurance company.

Punch List: List of small work items that require completion, as compiled by contractor and home renovator.


Qualified Domestic Trust (QDOT): Trust established under the Will of a U.S. citizen to provide for a non-citizen spouse, to save estate taxes.

Qualified Personal Residence Trust (QPRT): A trust established to own a personal residence and receive certain income and estate tax benefits by having the home held in trust.


Rabies: A deadly virus that attacks the nervous system of all warm-blooded animals, including humans. Cats, dogs and ferrets are required by state law to be vaccinated against rabies.

Reaffirmation agreement: An agreement between the creditor and the debtor that reinstates the debt of a debtor after the bankruptcy is discharged. The obligation to pay on this debt survives the bankruptcy.

Reasonable Accommodation: A change that is deemed reasonable for an employer to make to better enable a disabled person to perform a job.

Remand: Can refer to holding a defendant on bail or in custody, until a lower court provides instructions as to further proceedings.

Replacement Cost: The compensation to replace or repair damaged property.

Reservists: Members of one of the five military Reserve branches (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard) who complete basic training, return to live at home in civilian life, and train with their units for one weekend per month. Reservists may be called to active duty in times of need if additional support is needed. Reserves are part of the federal government.

Residuary Beneficiary: A person who receives a share of an estate after specific gifts, expenses and debts have been paid.

Retainage: A portion of your contractor’s final payment that is withheld until completion of the agreed-upon work.

Retaliation: An act that occurs when employment decisions are made against a person because he or she reported discrimination or participated in an investigation concerning discrimination.

Revocable Trust: A type of trust that can be canceled out, changed or undone by the person who creates it. The ability to revoke a trust terminates when the Grantor dies.

Rider: A separate legal document used to make changes or add details to the basic legal contract.

Right of Election/Elective Share: Amount spouses are entitled to receive as a matter of law, regardless of whether a spouse is disinherited.


Schematics: Rough plans drawn up by an architect for a project.

Scope: This is the estimate of the cost of repairs, also known as the scope of repairs.

Scope of Work: Detailed description of the work to be done. Deviations or changes from the original scope of work may be subject to additional fees and costs.

Secured debt: Debt secured by a lien against the property to which it relates. This type of debt is generally not eliminated in bankruptcy unless the individual is also willing to surrender the property (such as a car or home) which is connected to the lien.

Self-proving Affidavit: Document often executed in connection with a Will that sets forth the particulars of the will signing ceremony and acknowledgement by the witnesses that things occurred as stated. Affidavit serves to prevent the need to have witnesses appear in court if the Will or other legal document is challenged.

Self-settled Trust (SST): Trust created by your child (or on your child’s behalf) or by court order in order to maintain current and future eligibility for SSI, SSDI, Medicaid, and other needs-based public assistance. The trust is funded solely with your child’s funds and is alternately known as a First-Party Special Needs Trust.

Service and Assistance Animals: Animals that are trained to perform tasks to provide help to individuals with a disability. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, these animals may accompany their owner to all businesses, schools and other areas that are generally open to the public.

Sexual Harassment: A form of “hostile work environment” that makes someone uncomfortable by virtue of their sex, or requires them to engage in behavior which may include sexual favors for a job benefit.

Social Security Administration (SSA): Federal agency that runs the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) programs.

Social Security Disability Income (SSDI): Federal program run by the SSA which provides benefits to disabled workers and, in some cases, their disabled children. These benefits are funded through wage contributions and have strict disability guidelines.

Special Needs: Usually refers to a person who is not typical in the development of gross or fine motor skills or cognition or has a disability classification for public assistance benefits.

Special Needs Trust: A type of trust that is established for people with a disability who may require public assistance and/or help in managing their financial affairs.

Specific Bequest: A gift made under a Will of particular property to a particular person or class of persons. “I leave my jewelry to my daughter,” is an example of a specific bequest.

Supplemental Needs Trust (SNT): Trust designed to maintain your child’s current and future eligibility to receive SSI, SSDI, Medicaid, and other needs-based public assistance. The trust is created and funded by a third party for your child’s benefit.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI): Federal program that provides monthly benefits to individuals who are age 65 and older, blind or disabled. The program has strict financial and disability eligibility guidelines.

Staff Adjuster: Professional who works directly for the insurance carrier to report on damage causing your claim.

Statement of Case (SOC): A report submitted by a benefits review officer to explain why a claim was denied.

Statement of Financial Affairs (SOFA): A schedule in the bankruptcy petition that includes information regarding the debtor’s past financial information that may not be included in any of the other schedules such as past transfers and past income.

Statement of Intention: Schedule filed with the Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition which states the debtor’s intention to either keep or surrender property on which there is a lien attached.

Statute of Limitations: Law which provides that a lawsuit must be started within a certain period of time, after an incident or the signing of a contract, or else it can longer be brought.

Stipulated-sum Contract: Contractor agrees to do the delineated scope of work for a fixed price. Contractor hires workers/sub-contractors for a fixed price.

Stop and Frisk: Type of search conducted when an officer who is suspicious of an individual stops and pats down a person’s outer clothing in search of a weapon. If no weapon is found, the search should cease.

Substantial Completion: The stage in the work under the contract when the renovation can be used by you for its intended purposes.

Substantially Limits: Standard under the ADA to determine whether an impairment so affects a major life activity that a person is deemed to have a disability.

Surety Bond: A bond posted by a bail bond company (licensed insurance company) on behalf of the accused in return for a fee.

Survivors Pensions (also known as Death Pensions): Pensions paid to a surviving non-remarried spouse or surviving unmarried child of a deceased wartime Veteran.


Tax Equity Fiscal Responsibility Act (TEFRA): Federal law that, among other things, authorizes coverage for the care of disabled children living at home or in the community, whose parents do not meet traditional Medicaid financial eligibility requirements. Also known as the Katie Beckett Waiver.

Temporary Order of Protection (TOP): A court order limiting contact by an accused with the complaining witness as a condition of his/her release or bail.

Testamentary Document: A Will or Trust or other document that specifies what happens to someone’s property at death.

Testamentary Trust: Trust created under your Will to take effect at your death.

Testator/Testatrix: The person who writes a Will. If male, he is referred to as the testator; if female, a testatrix. Derived from the word testate, which refers to dying with a Will.

Time of the Essence: Often a contract clause which provides that if a contractor fails to achieve substantial completion by a stated date, that constitutes a material breach under the contract.

Traditional Medicare: This is a U.S. government program which provides medical coverage for older and disabled Americans; refers to Medicare Parts A (hospital) and B (medical).

Trust: A separate legal entity that is formed to own, manage and distribute assets in accordance with instructions set forth in a trust document. It is managed by a trustee who must accept his or her appointment.

Trustee: Person appointed in the trust document to manage property held in trust.


Underwater: A home in which the unpaid mortgage amount is higher than the current value of the home.

Unsecured debt: Type of debt that can be fully eliminated under a bankruptcy. This includes: credit card debt, leases, personal loans not attached to any property or payday loans, and other types of contract debt. Some types of property, such as furniture, electronics and jewelry, which are secured by “unsecured debt” must be returned to the creditor as part of a bankruptcy.


VA (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs): The VA is the federal agency in charge of administering and overseeing all benefit programs available to Veterans in the United States.

VA National Income Threshold: Income levels set by the VA at a national level used to determine eligibility for various benefit programs.

Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA): Department of the VA which oversees non-health and non-memorial benefits including: disability compensation, pensions, education and training, home loan guaranties, life insurance, and vocational rehabilitation and employment.

Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment: Program that assists disabled veterans in transitioning to civilian life, obtaining jobs and training, and achieving independence in daily living. Also known as the Chapter 31 Program.


Ward: Term used to describe a person who is the subject of a guardianship.

War Zone Era: Specific time periods of armed hostilities designated by Congress that date back to World War II and go up to the present day Global War on Terrorism. 83 82

White-collar Crime: Typically refers to nonviolent, financially motivated crimes committed by government or business professionals.

Will: Also known as a “last will and testament.” It is the document that sets forth legally binding wishes regarding: how your assets will pass, appointment of a guardian, apportionment of taxes and appointment of an executor to manage the process.

Wildcard exemption: In many states, this is the name of the exemption that can be applied to any personal property.

Wrongful Termination: An end to employment for reasons that are illegal.


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