When using legal services, you will likely come across a lot of terminology you're not familiar with. Our jargon buster provides you with a list of words you might hear in correspondence with us and what they mean.
Absolute - Complete and unconditional
Absolute discharge - Someone who has been convicted of an offence being released without any penalty
Absolute interest - Total and complete ownership of an asset or property
Abstract of title - A document, drawn up by the seller, summarising the title deeds to a property
Abuse of process - When criminal proceedings are brought against a person without there being any good reason
Acceptance - When an offer is accepted unconditionally and a legally binding agreement is created
Accused - The person charged with a criminal offence
Acknowledgement of service - When a defendant agrees that a writ or originating summons has been received
Aquittal - The court's decision that a person is innocent of the crime they were charged with
Action - Using the law to make a claim
Actus reus - An act which is illegal, such as theft
Adjournment - Postponing a court hearing
Adjudication - To give an official judgement about something
Administration order - An order made by a county court when a person or company cannot pay their debts
Administrator - Someone who has been appointed to manage the affairs of a bankrupt business or estate
Adoption - The system which people use to become parents, even though they are not the child's natural parents
Adverse possession - Intentionally occupying land to prevent the rightful owner or tenant using it
Advocate - Is the lawyer who speaks in court for a client or a Scottish lawyer who is the equivalent of a barrister in England and Wales
Affidavit - A written statement which is sworn to be true by the person signing it
Affirm - Solemnly promise to tell the truth
Agent - Someone appointed to act for a principal
Ambulatory will - A will which can be revoked or changed whilst the person who made it is still living
Annual general meeting - The yearly meeting of the members of an organisation which must be held to meet legal conditions
Annul - To cancel an invalid marriage or a bankruptcy order
Anton Pillar order - An order by the high Court that gives the applicant permission to search the defendant's premises for evidence
Appeal - Asking a court to overturn a lower court's decision
Appellant - The person who is appealing to a court against a decision of a lower court
Applicant - The person who is bringing the proceedings to court
Arbitration - Settling a dispute by using a referee
Articles of association - Documents which set out a company's rules
Assent - A document used by personal representatives to transfer property to a beneficiary
Asset - Something owned such as a building, a vehicle or money in the bank
Attachment of earnings - A court order that deductions be made from a person's earnings
Authorised share capital - The highest amount of share capital that a company can issue
Bail - To pay, or promise to pay, an amount of money so that an accused person is not put in prison before the trial
Bailiff - An officer of the court, who carries out the court's orders, such as taking a debtor's goods and selling them to repay debts
Bankrupt - Someone who has a bankruptcy order
Bankruptcy order - An order that a court may issue against someone if they cannot pay their debts when they are due to be paid
Bankruptcy search - A document which says whether or not someone is bankrupt
Bar - The collective term for barristers
Barrister - A lawyer who can speak in the higher courts, which a solicitor is not allowed to do
Bench warrant - A warrant issued by a court for the arrest of an accused person who has failed to attend court
Beneficiary - Someone who benefits from a will, a trust or a life insurance policy
Bequest - Something given in a will, other than land or real property
Bill of costs - The invoice the solicitor sends to a client giving details of any disbursements the solicitor has paid on behalf of the client
Binding over - An order by a court in a criminal case. If someone has misbehaved or broken the peace, magistrates can bind them over
Bona fide - Genuine, sincere or in good faith
Breach of contract - Failing to carry out a duty under a contract
Break clause - A clause in a contract which allows it to be entered
Brief - A document prepared by a solicitor containing instructions for the barrister to follow when acting for the solicitor in court
Capital gains tax - A tax charged on certain capital gains
Care order - An order by a court instructing the local authority to care for a child
Caution - Is a warning given by the police to a suspected criminal when the suspect is arrested or released without prosecution
Caveat emtor - 'Buyer beware'. It is used to warn people buying goods that they may not be able to get compensation if faulty
Chambers - The offices used by barristers and the judge's private office
Chancery Division - A section of the high court dealing with cases involving trusts, land, company law, patents and so on
Charge - Means to formally accuse someone of committing a crime or to use property as a security for debt
Charging order - A court judgement which a creditor may get against the person or organisation which owes the money
Chattel - Any property except freehold land
Child support maintenance - The amount of maintenance the parent not living with their child must pay
Circuit judge - A judge who presides over (is in charge of) cases in the Crown Court and county courts
Civil court - A court which does not hear criminal cases. It deals with people's rights such as collecting debts
Claim - Means to apply for a right, to demand a remedy, or an application for something such as a right
Claimant - The person making a claim
Codicil - Extra pages to change a valid will which needs a minor alteration
Commissioner for Oaths - A person appointed by the Lord Chancellor to administer (manage) the swearing of oaths
Committal order - An order used to send someone to prison for contempt of court
Compensation - Money paid to make up for damage or loss caused
Completion - Transferring property in exchange for payment
Concurrent sentence - When someone is sentenced for different crimes and the sentences are to be served at the same time
Conditional discharge - A court may decide not to punish a criminal immediately and may conditionally discharge them instead
Conditional sale agreement - An agreement by which the seller remains the owner of the goods until all instalments are paid
Condition - A fundamental part of an agreement. The agreement or contract may collapse if a condition is broken
Consecutive sentence - When someone is sentenced for different crimes and the sentences have to served one after another
Consent - To agree to something
Consideration - The price you pay for something
Constructive dismissal - As the employer broke fundamental terms of the contract of employment, the employee is forced to resign
Contempt of court - Offence of disobeying a court order, abusing judges during court cases, or interfering in administration of justice
Contingency fee - The claimant's lawyer gets paid the fee only if the case is won by the claimant
Contract - An agreement between two or more people (or groups) to do (or not to do) something
Contract of service - The contract between employer and employee
Contract for services - A contract under which materials and services are provided by a contractor
Contributory negligence - Your own carelessness contributing to the damage done to you or your property
Conveyance - The name of the document which transfers the ownership of land
Conviction - Being found guilty of a criminal offence
Copyright - A legal right which stops things being copied without permission
Counsel - A barrister or groups of barristers
Counterclaim - Making a claim in court against someone who has already make a claim in court against you
County court - A court which deals with civil cases such as disputes over unpaid debts and negligence claims
Court of Appeal - A court which hears appeals against the decisions of other courts
Court of Protection - A court which administers (manages) the assets and affairs of people who cannot look after themselves
Covenant - A contract or legally binding promise
Creditor - A person you owe money to
Cross-examine - To question a witness for the other side in a case
Crown Court - The court where people indicted of criminal offences are tried
Damages - The name for money awarded by a court as compensation
Debenture - A document issued by a company which acknowledges that some or all of the company's assets are security for a debt
Debtor - Someone who owes you money
Decree - An order by a court
Decree absolute - The final court order which ends a marriage
Decree nisi - A provisional court order which orders that a marriage should be dissolved
Deed - A legal document which commits the person signing it to something
Defendant - The person defending a court action which has been taken against them
Deponent - A person who swears on oath that a statement is correct
Deposition - A statement, by a witness, made under oath
Determination - Ending an agreement
Disbursement - A payment made by a professional person, such as a solicitor or accountant, on behalf of a client
Discharge - Release from a commitment such as a debt, a contract because it has finished or a punishment for a crime
Disclaimer - To give up a claim or a right or refuse to take over an onerous (having more obligations than advantages) contract
Discretionary trust - A trust in which the trustees can decide who will benefit from the trust and how much they will get
Divorce - The legal end to a marriage
Domicile - The country where your permanent home is, even if you are living somewhere else for now
Duty - A levy charged by the Government, usually when things are brought, such as shares or buildings
Easement - A right to use someone else's land, such as a right of way
Engrossment - Preparing the final version of a legal document ready for it to be executed
Estate - Is all a person owns at the date of their death or the right to use land for a period of time
Ex parte - Done by one side only in a case
Exchange of contract - When land is sold, the person selling and the the person buying both sign identical contracts and exchange them
Execute - To carry out a contract
Executor - Someone appointed in a will to deal with the estate, according to the wishes set out in the will
Expert witness - An expert in a particular field who is called to give an opinion in a court case
Extraordinary general meeting - A general meeting of the members of a company which is not the annual general meeting
Extraordinary resolution - A resolution for consideration by the members of a company at a general meeting of the members
Floating charge - A charge used to provide security for money lent to a company
Force majeure - An event which cannot be controlled and which stops duties under an agreement from being carried out
Forfeiture - The loss of possession of a property because the tenancy conditions have not been met by the tenant
Freehold - Describing land that only the owner has any rights over
Frustration - Stopping a contract. Sometimes contracts can't be carried out as something has happened which makes it impossible
Garnishee order - A court order to a third party who owes money to a judgement debtor to pay the money to the judgement creditor
General damages - Damages a court will give to compensate for a wrong done without needing proof that damage has been done
Grant of probate - A certificate proving that the executors of a will are entitled to deal with the estate
Guarantee - A promise by a person to repay a debt owed by a second person if the second person fails to repay it
Guarantor - A person or organisation that promises to pay a debt owed by a second person, if the second person fails to repay it
Guardian - A person appointed formally to look after the interests of a child, or someone not capable of looking after their own affairs
Harassment of debtors - The illegal act of attempting to collect debts by threatening, or habitually acting in ways that distress a debtor
Hearsay evidence - Evidence given in court of something said to the witness by another person
Hereditament - Any property which is capable of being inherited
High Court (of Justice) - Part of the Supreme Court.
Hire - To pay to borrow something for a period
Hire purchase - A form of credit which allows the purchaser to have possession of the goods shown in the hire purchase agreement
HM Land Registry - A registry with offices in towns and cities throughout the UK which keep records of registered land
House of Lords - The upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom
Indictable offence - An offence which can be tried by jury in the Crown Court
Indictment - A document setting out the details of the offence a defendant is accused of
Intangible property - Property which does not physically exist, such as a right or a patent
Interest - A legal right to use property
Intestacy / intestate - When someone dies without leaving a will. Their estate is divided up between their relatives by rules set by law
Issue - The legal word for children or the matter to be decided by a court action
Issued share capital - Share capital which has been allocated to shareholders who have subscribed for (asked for) shares
Joint and several liability - Two or more people responsible for repaying a debt.
Joint lives policy - A life assurance policy on more than one person's life. The policy pays out on the first death.
Joint tenancy - Two or more people having identical shares in land.
Joint will - A single will which two or more people make to cover all their estates.
Judge - A person whose job it is to adjudicate in court cases.
Judgement - A decision by a court.
Judicial separation - A court order that two married people should live apart.
Land - Includes the buildings built on the land, the subsoil, the air space above the land necessary for ordinary use of the land and property fixed to the land.
Lasting Powers of Attorney - There are two types of Lasting Power of Attorney; health and welfare, and property and financial affairs.
Lease - A contract between the owner of a property and a tenant, giving the tenant sole use of the property for an agreed time.
Leasehold - Property held by a tenant with a lease.
Legacy - A gift left to someone in a will, but not including land.
Legatee - The person who receives a legacy.
Lessee - The person a property had been leased to.
Lessor - The person who lets a property by lease.
Letters of administration - An authority the courts give to a person to deal with a dead person's estate. It is given when someone dies intestate.
Liability - A debt or obligation.
Licensed Conveyancer - A person authorised to do conveyancing (but not including solicitors).
Life assurance policy - A contract between the policyholder and the insurance company.
Magistrate - A Justice of the Peace who presides over minor cases heard in the magistrates' court.
Magistrates' court - The lowest court.
Maintenance - Money paid to support a partner and children when a marriage has failed.
Matrimonial causes - The court proceedings to divorce people, separate a marriage or dissolve a marriage.
Matrimonial home - The house that a husband and wife live in as a married couple.
Mediation - Help from an independent person to solve differences between a husband and wife whose marriage has broken down.
Memorandum and articles of association - The memorandum gives details of a company's name, objects and share capital.
Mortgage - Using property as security for a debt. It is also the name of the contract which is signed by the borrower and lender when money is lent using property as security for a loan.
Mortgagee - The lender of the money which is secured by a mortgage.
Mortgagor - The person who borrows the money to buy a property. The lending is secured with a mortgage of the property.
Naked trust - A trust which holds property for a person until they ask the trustee to return it.
Negligence - Lack of proper care to do a duty properly.
Negligent - Lacking proper care to do a duty properly.
Negotiable instrument - A document which is signed, is an instruction to pay an amount of money, can have its ownership changed by changing the name it is paid to and can have its ownership changed simply by being delivered to its next owner.
Next of kin - A person's closest blood relatives.
Nondisclosure - The failure by one side to a contract to disclose a fact to the other side that would influence their decision to go ahead with the contract.
Notary - A person who is authorised to certify documents, take affidavits and swear oaths.
Novation - Replacing an existing agreement with a new one.
Oath - Swearing the truth of a statement.
Obligation - A legal duty to do something.
Occupation - Taking control of a piece of land which belongs to someone else.
Occupier - The person who is in control of a piece of land, such as a tenant.
Offer - A promise to do something, or not to do something. If the promise is accepted it becomes legally binding.
Omission - A failure to do something.
Option - A type of contract under which money is paid for a right to buy or sell goods at a fixed price by a particular date in the future.
Order - An instruction by or command of a court.