A member of the governing board of a corporation, typically elected at an annual meeting of the shareholders. Directors are responsible for making important business decisions -- especially those that legally bind the corporation -- leaving day-to-day management to officers and employees of the corporation. For example, a decision to borrow money, lease an office or buy real property would normally be authorized by the board of directors. However, in the small business world, where it is common for owners to be directors, officers and employees simultaneously, distinctions dividing the roles and responsibilities of these groups are often blurred.
disability benefits
Money available from Social Security to benefit those under 65 who qualify because of their work and earning record and who meet the program's medical guidelines defining disability. The benefits are roughly equal to those available in Social Security retirement benefits.
discharge (of debts)
A bankruptcy court's erasure of the debts of a person or business that has filed for bankruptcy.
discharge (of probate administrator)
A court order releasing the administrator or executor from any further duties connected with the probate of an estate. This typically occurs when the duties have been completed but may happen sooner if the executor or administrator wishes to withdraw or is dismissed.
dischargeable debts
Debts that can be erased by going through bankruptcy. Most debts incurred prior to declaring bankruptcy are dischargeable, including back rent, credit card bills and medical bills. Compare nondischargeable debts.
(1) To refuse or give away a claim or a right to something. For example, if your aunt leaves you a white elephant in her will and you don't want it, you can refuse the gift by disclaiming your ownership rights. (2) To deny responsibility for a claim or act. For example, a merchant that sells goods second-hand may disclaim responsibility for a product’s defects by selling it "as is."
(1) A refusal or renunciation of a claim or right. (2) A refusal or denial of responsibility for a claim or an act. (3) The written clause or document that sets out the disclaimer. See also disclaim.
The making known of a fact that had previously been hidden; a revelation. For example, in many states you must disclose major physical defects in a house you are selling, such as a leaky roof or potential flooding problem.
A formal investigation -- governed by court rules -- that is conducted before trial. Discovery allows one party to question other parties, and sometimes witnesses. It also allows one party to force the others to produce requested documents or other physical evidence. The most common types of discovery are interrogatories, consisting of written questions the other party must answer under penalty of perjury, and depositions, which involve an in-person session at which one party to a lawsuit has the opportunity to ask oral questions of the other party or her witnesses under oath while a written transcript is made by a court reporter. Other types of pretrial discovery consist of written requests to produce documents and requests for admissions, by which one party asks the other to admit or deny key facts in the case. One major purpose of discovery is to assess the strength or weakness of an opponent's case, with the idea of opening settlement talks. Another is to gather information to use at trial. Discovery is also present in criminal cases, in which by law the prosecutor must turn over to the defense any witness statements and any evidence that might tend to exonerate the defendant. Depending on the rules of the court, the defendant may also be obliged to share evidence with the prosecutor.
To deliberately prevent someone from inheriting something. This is usually done by a provision in a will stating that someone who would ordinarily inherit property -- a close family member, for example -- should not receive it. In most states, you cannot completely disinherit your spouse; a surviving spouse has the right to claim a portion (usually one-third to one-half) of the deceased spouse's estate. With a few exceptions, however, you can expressly disinherit children.
disposable income
The difference between a debtor's current monthly income and allowable expenses. This is the amount that the new bankruptcy law deems available to pay into a Chapter 13 plan.
The assertion of conflicting claims or rights between parties involved in a legal proceeding, such as a lawsuit, mediation or arbitration.
A term used instead of divorce in some states.
distinctive mark
A trademark or service mark that is unusual in the context of its use, and therefore memorable. Distinctive marks typically consist of terms that are fanciful or arbitrary (Penguin books), suggestive (Accuride tires), or coined (Maalox antacid). Distinctive marks receive maximum judicial protection under state and federal laws.
(1) Anyone who receives something. Usually, the term refers to someone who inherits a deceased person’s property. If the deceased person dies without a will (called intestate), state law determines what each distributee will receive. Also called a beneficiary.