Legal Glossary


Legalhelp.ca deciphers the lingo that may have you confused, from alimony to vested remainder.

Alimony: The money paid by one ex-spouse to the other for financial support as determined by a settlement after a divorce

  • Learn more about getting divorced or separated

Alternate Beneficiary: When the first named beneficiary does not take a property, another person or organization may receive that property through a will, trust or insurance policy Learn how to prepare a will

Appraisal: An evaluation of the value of something, such as a house, jewelry or furniture

Arbitration: A non-court procedure for resolving disputes which usually leads to a faster, less-expensive resolution

Attorney-Client Privilege: A mandate that ensures communication between a lawyer and client is confidential and cannot be used as evidence in a trial

Audit: An examination of the financial records of a person, business, or organization

Bankruptcy: A legal status that either relieves one of responsibility towards repaying debt or provides protection while repaying a debt

Brief: A document that sets out the facts of the case and is used to submit a legal argument to a court

Class Action: A lawsuit involving a large number of people with similar legal claims joining together to sue a person or organization

Contingency Fee: A method of paying a lawyer such that the lawyer receives a percentage of the money her client obtains after settling or winning the case

Debtor: A person or organization who owes money

Deposition:¬†A type of evidence that involves questioning a witness under oath, usually in an attorney’s office before a trial, and recorded by a court reporter

Executor:¬†The person named in a will to handle the property of someone who has died by paying debts and taxes, then distributing what’s left, as specified in the will

Forbearance: A refraining from the enforcement of a debt, right or obligation that is due.

Fraud: Intentionally deceiving another person or organization and causing them to suffer a loss

Grandfather Clause: An allowance in a new law that exempts its application to people who are already a part of the system

Guarantor:¬†A person who makes a legally binding promise to either pay another person’s debt or perform another person’s duty if that person fails to pay

Liability: Being legally responsible for an act or omission

Litigation: The process of pursuing a lawsuit

Malpractice: The act of performing substandard service as a lawyer, doctor, dentist, accountant or other professional

Petition: A formal written request made to a court, asking for an order or ruling on a particular matter

Retainer: A fee paid in advance to a lawyer, like a deposit, to secure his services

Vested Remainder: An unconditional right to receive assets or property at some point in the future

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