A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
attestation
The act of watching someone sign a legal document, such as a will or power of attorney, and then signing your own name as a witness. When you witness a document in this way, you are attesting -- that is, stating and confirming -- that the person whom you watched sign the document in fact did so. Attesting to a document does not mean that you are vouching for its accuracy or truthfulness. You are only acknowledging that you watched it being signed by the person whose name is on the signature line.
attorney fees
The payment made to a lawyer for legal services. These fees may take several forms: hourly per job or service -- for example, $350 to draft a will contingency (the lawyer collects a percentage of any money she wins for her client and nothing if there is no recovery), or retainer (usually a down payment as part of an hourly or per job fee agreement). Attorney fees must usually be paid by the client who hires a lawyer, though occasionally a law or contract will require the losing party of a lawsuit to pay the winner's court costs and attorney fees. For example, a contract might contain a provision that says the loser of any lawsuit between the parties to the contract will pay the winner's attorney fees. Many laws designed to protect consumers also provide for attorney fees -- for example, most state laws that require landlords to provide habitable housing also specify that a tenant who sues and wins using that law may collect attorney fees. And in family law cases -- divorce, custody and child support -- judges often have the power to order the more affluent spouse to pay the other spouse's attorney fees, even where there is no clear victor.
Attorney General
Head of the United States Department of Justice and chief law officer of the Federal government. The Attorney General represents the United States in legal matters, oversees federal prosecutors, and provides legal advice to the President and to heads of executive governmental departments. Each state also has an attorney general, responsible for advising the governor and state agencies and departments about legal issues, and overseeing state prosecuting attorneys.
attorney work product privilege
A rule that protects materials prepared by a lawyer in preparation for trial from being seen and used by the adversary during discovery or trial.
attorney-client privilege
A rule that keeps communications between an attorney and her client confidential and bars them from being used as evidence in a trial, or even being seen by the opposing party during discovery.
attorney-in-fact
A person named in a written power of attorney document to act on behalf of the person who signs the document, called the principal. The attorney-in-fact's power and responsibilities depend on the specific powers granted in the power of attorney document. An attorney-in-fact is an agent of the principal.
attractive nuisance
Something on a piece of property that attracts children but also endangers their safety. For example, unfenced swimming pools, open pits, farm equipment and abandoned refrigerators have all qualified as attractive nuisances.
audit
An examination of the financial records of a person, business, or organization, typically done to correct careless or improper bookkeeping or to verify that proper records are being kept. Businesses and nonprofits often undergo an annual audit by an independent accounting firm. The IRS also conducts audits, mainly to assess taxes owed.
augmented estate
In general terms, an augmented estate consists of property owned by both a deceased person and his or her spouse. The concept of the augmented estate is used only in some states. Its value is calculated only if a surviving spouse declines whatever he or she was left by will and instead claims a share of the deceased spouse's estate. (This is called taking against the will.) The amount of this "statutory share" or "elective share" depends on state law.
authenticate
To offer testimony that tells the judge what an item of evidence is and its connection to the case.
author
In terms of copyright protection, either the person who creates the work, the person or business that pays another to create the work in an employment context or the person or business that commissions the work under a valid work for hire contract. For example, a songwriter may write a song, but if he is employed by a company to do so, the company is the author of that song for copyright purposes.
automatic stay
An injunction automatically issued by the bankruptcy court when a debtor files for bankruptcy. The automatic stay prohibits most creditor collection activities, such as filing or continuing lawsuits, making written requests for payment, or notifying credit reporting bureaus of an unpaid debt.
autopsy
A physician's examination of the body of a deceased person to determine the cause of death.
avails
Any amount available to the owner of an insurance policy other than the actual proceeds of the policy. Avails include dividend payments, interest, cash or surrender value (the money you'd get if you sold your policy back to the insurance company) and loan value (the amount of cash you can borrow against the policy).
avowal
A direct statement or declaration. Also, a statement made by a witness after the judge has ruled that his or her testimony is not admissible at trial. This statement "preserves" the testimony so that it may be considered by the court if the trial's outcome is an appeal.