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
principal
(1) When creating a power of attorney or other legal document, the person who appoints an attorney-in-fact or agent to act on his or her behalf. (2) In criminal law, the main perpetrator of a crime. (3) In commercial law, the total amount of a loan, not including any capitalized fees or interest. (4) In the law of trusts, the property of the trust, as opposed to the income generated by that property. The principal is also known as the trust corpus; that's Latin for "body." For example, Arthur establishes a new trust with $100,000, with interest and other income payable to Merlin; the $100,000 is the trust principal or corpus.
Principal Register
The list on which distinctive trademarks and service marks approved for federal regulation are placed. The benefits of getting a mark placed on the principal register include the notice to potential copiers that your mark is protected, the right to sue to stop copying, and the right to have the mark considered immune from legal challenge after five years. Registration also means that an infringer will be considered a willful infringer in case of an infringement lawsuit, which makes it a lot easier to collect large damages and possibly attorney fees.
prior art
All previous inventions in the field of an invention for which a patent is being sought. Prior art is used by the Patent and TM Office to decide whether the invention is sufficiently unique and non-intuitive to qualify for patent protection.
priority debt
A type of debt that is paid first if there are distributions made from the bankruptcy estate in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and must be paid in full in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Priority debts include alimony and child support, fees owed to the trustee and the attorney in the bankruptcy case, and wages owed to employees.
private mortgage insurance (PMI)
Insurance that reimburses a mortgage lender if the buyer defaults on the loan and the foreclosure sale price is less than the amount owed the lender (the mortgage plus the costs of the sale). A home buyer who makes less than a 20% down payment may have to purchase PMI.
privileged communication
See confidential communication.
pro hac vice
Latin meaning "for this one particular occasion." The phrase usually refers to an out-of-state lawyer who has been granted special permission to participate in a particular case, even though the lawyer is not licensed to practice in the state where the case is being tried.
pro per
A term derived from the Latin in propria, meaning "for one's self," used in some states to describe a person who handles her own case without a lawyer. In other states, the term pro se is used. When a nonlawyer files his own legal papers, he is expected to write "in pro per" at the bottom of the heading on the first page.
pro se
A Latin phrase meaning "for himself" or "in one's own behalf." This term denotes a person who represents herself in court. It is used in some states in place of "in pro per" and has the same meaning.
probable cause
The amount and quality of information police must have before they can arrest or search without a warrant or that a judge must have before she will sign a search warrant allowing the police to conduct a search or arrest a suspect. Reliable information must show that it's more likely than not that a crime has occurred and the suspect is involved.
probate
The court process following a person's death that includes proving the authenticity of the deceased person's will appointing someone to handle the deceased person's affairs identifying and inventorying the deceased person's property paying debts and taxes identifying heirs, and distributing the deceased person's property according to the will or, if there is no will, according to state law. Formal court-supervised probate is a costly, time-consuming process -- a windfall for lawyers -- which is best avoided if possible.
probate court
A specialized court or division of a state trial court that considers only cases concerning the distribution of deceased persons' estate. Called "surrogate court" in New York and several other states, this court normally examines the authenticity of a will -- or if a person dies intestate, figures out who receives her property under state law. It then oversees a procedure to pay the deceased person's debts and to distribute her assets to the proper inheritors. See probate.
proceeds for damaged exempt property
In a bankruptcy proceeding, money collected through insurance, arbitration, mediation, settlement or a lawsuit to pay for exempt property that's no longer exemptible because it has been damaged or destroyed.
professional corporation
A legal structure authorized by state law for a fairly narrow list of licensed professions, including lawyers, doctors, accountants, many types of higher-level health providers and often architects. Unlike a regular corporation, a professional corporation does not absolve a professional for personal liability for her own negligence or malpractice. The main reason why groups of professions choose this organizational structure is that, unlike a general partnership, owners are not personally liable for the malpractice of other owners. In some states, limited liability partnerships offer this same benefit and may be more desirable for other reasons.
promissory estoppel
See estoppel.