– Summary

This article will provide explanations for many of the legal terms and words you will find on this website.

Below are a list of common words and terms you may come across in relation to Law in general.

Click here for our WILLS GLOSSARY, words relating to Wills and Estates.

Click here for our list of LATIN terms that are commonly used in Law.

 


A

Accident Report

An official document usually prepared by the police containing all the details of an accident.

Accused

In Criminal Law, A person who has allegedly committed a criminal offence such as fraud, theft, rape, murder, etc.

Act

1) Any action by a person.

2) A bill (draft Law) that is adopted by government and, after the correct procedure, becomes Legislation and Law that is enforceable.

Ante-nuptial Contract

A contract entered into to regulate a marriage out of community of property with/without the accrual system.  Click here for more information.

Applicant

The person who institutes proceeding in Court by means of an application; the party in a defending position in an application in Court.  Opposite to the Respondent.

Application

An application is a proceeding instituted in a South African Court which can be argued on the papers alone (i.e. no oral evidence); affidavits will be used by the parties to record their versions and these papers will be used to determine the matter.


B

Bank Guarantee

A letter from a bank undertaking that a certain amount of money will be paid on the occurrence of a specified event or time; usually, but not exclusively, in respect of the purchase price of the property and when it is registered in the name of a new owner with the Deeds Office.

Bequest

Property given in terms of a Last Will and Testament.

Burden of Proof

The duty of one party in a trial situation to produce evidence that will convince the Court in favour of that party’s own position (i.e. convince the Court that the default or presumed position is incorrect).

When a party bearing the burden of proof meets their burden, the burden of proof switches to the other side.

Also referred to as an Onus of Proof.


C

Clearance Account

An amount you are required to pay that will take your municipality account into credit; it is usually calculated based on your average monthly usage that is then multiplied by a factor of 3 to 6.  Also called “Rates Clearance Figure“.

Clearance Certificate

A document from the municipality certifying the account in respect of a particular property is up to date. In relation to transferring a property often a payment of an additional amount is required called a “clearance account“.

Common Law Marriage

This is the concept that principle that after living together for a certain amount of time your relationship will be viewed as a marriage by the Law with the same right and obligations.

PLEASE NOTE: SOUTH AFRICAN LAW DOES NOT RECOGNISE COMMON LAW MARRIAGE.

Compensation

Usually, money, awarded to a legal person in recognition of loss, suffering, or injury.

Contract

A voluntary arrangement between two or more parties that is enforceable at law as a binding legal agreement. Also referred to as an agreement. See our Wiki article on Contract Law for in-depth information.

Court Order

A direction issued by a court or a Judge/Magistrate requiring a person to do or not do something.  Also referred to as an Order of Court.

Criminal Offence

A violation of a Law (by act or omission) in which there is an injury to the public or Legal Person/s.

In order for the State to succeed in its case, it must prove all of the following elements:- Conduct; Wrongfulness; Fault; Damage; and, Causation.

Curator

A person who is appointed by a High Court to take care of anything for another.

Custodian

A person, usually a parent, with the legal authority to make decisions affecting a child’s interests.


D

Deed of Transfer

An official document that proves ownership, usually for immovable property; in the case of immovable property, it contains information regarding:- the property; details of the old owners; details of the new owner.

Deeds Office

An official government department responsible for the registration, management and maintenance of the property registry of South Africa; usually immovable property.

Delict

A term in civil law for an action (intentional or negligent) that causes loss or damage and that create legal liability.

Delict has the same elements as a criminal offence in that, in order to be successful, a claimant must prove:- Conduct; Wrongfulness; Fault; Damage; and, Causation.

For further reading see South African Law of Delict in our Wiki.

Dies Non

A period of time which does not count for legal purposes.  In the High Court of South Africa, this is usually the period from 15 December to 15 January.

Duty

In Law, a legal bond by which one or more parties are bound to act or refrain from acting.  A Duty is usually imposed by law, promise, or contract.  Also referred to as an Obligation.


E

Estate

The property, money and possessions of a person.   Also, see our Wills Glossary.

Executor

The person appointed in a Will or codicil to administer an estate.  Also, see our Wills Glossary.


F

Family Advocate

A neutral institution that assists with family matters; it cannot act as the legal representative for either litigant.  It assists in various family relating matters such as divorces and makes recommendations in respect of children’s best interests.


G

Guardian

Both married parents of a child born from the marriage are guardians; for children born out of wedlock, only the mother is the guardian, unless the father acquires guardianship, which will happen by permanently living with the mother or by order of Court.

Guardianship

Is the responsibility of a Guardian to protect to interests of a minor child, Including, the child’s property; representing the child in legal matters; consenting to marriage; adoption; removal from South Africa; requiring identity documents/passports.


I

Immovable Property

An item of property that cannot be moved without destroying or altering it; usually, property that is fixed to the earth, such as a house.

Intestate

When a person dies with no legally valid Will.  Also, see our Wills Glossary.


J

Judge

A public officer appointed to decide cases in the High court.  A single Judge may preside over a matter or, particularly in the case of appeals, a panel of  Judges consisting of more than one Judge.  Judges are usually appointed from the ranks of Advocates.

Judgement

In law, a judgment is a decision of a court regarding the rights and liabilities of parties in legal proceedings. Judgments also generally provide the court’s explanation of why it has chosen to make a particular court order.

Juristic Person

A company, Trust or public organization, as opposed to a human being (or natural person). Also a “Legal Person”.


L

Legal Person

Any person, natural or Juristic, that is recognised by Law as having legal rights and is subject to obligations.  Like a human being, company, Trust or public organization.


M

Mala Fide

literally means “in bad faith”.  Where someone is intentionally dishonest.

Magistrate

A public officer appointed to decide cases in the Magistrates’ Court.  Decisions by magistrates may be appealed or reviewed to the High Court where the circumstances may be adjudicated by a Judge.

Marriage

The formally recognised union of two people as partners in a relationship. In South Africa, people may be married in terms of a civil marriage, customary marriage, or religious marriage.

Marriage in Community of Property

One estate between a husband and a wife and all assets and liabilities are shared equally between the parties.  Click here for our article on this subject.

Marriage Out of Community of Property INCLUDING the Accrual System

Same as “marriage out of community of property” (see below) but the inclusion of the “accrual system” which provides for a division of the increased value of the parties respective estates during the subsistence of the marriage.  Requires the conclusion of an ante-nuptial contract, with a Notary Public, before the marriage. Click here for our article on Ante-nuptial contracts.

Marriage Out of Community of Property WITHOUT the Accrual System

Each spouse have their own estates; there is not sharing in assets or liabilities before, during or after the marriage.  Requires the conclusion of an ante-nuptial contract, with a Notary Public, before the marriage. Click here for our article on Ante-nuptial contracts.


N

Natural Person

A human being, as opposed to a legal/juristic person, which may be a company or public organization.

Negligent

The failure to take reasonable care (e.g.recklessness).

Notary Public

A legal officer appointed to deal with legal documents, principally for the conclusion of an ante-nuptial contract (in South Africa) but also for international purposes.

Notice

Notice is the legal requirement that a party be aware of the legal process affecting their rights, obligations or duties.  Some examples are: Notice of Motion, Notice of Intention to Defend; Notice of Intention to Amend; etc.

In litigation, a Notices must be serviced on your other party/other party’s attorney.


O

Obligation

In Law, a legal bond by which one or more parties are bound to act or refrain from acting.  An obligation is usually imposed by law, promise, or contract.  Also referred to as a duty.

Omission

A failure Act or to fulfil a moral or legal obligation.

Onus of Proof

The duty of one party in a trial situation to produce evidence that will convince the Court in favour of that party’s own position (i.e. convince the Court that the default or presumed position is incorrect).

When a party bearing the onus of proof fulfils their burden, the onus of proof switches to the other side.

Also referred to as a Burden of Proof.

Order of Court

A direction issued by a court or a Judge/Magistrate requiring a person to do or not do something.  Also referred to as a Court Order.


P

Parent

The biological father or mother of a child who has full or limited parental rights and responsibilities over his/her child.

Parental Rights and Responsibilities

To care for a child, maintain contact with the child, act as guardian of the child and to contribute to the maintenance of the child.

Power of Attorney

Authorisation to act on someone else’s behalf, usually in the form of a signed document.

Presumption

A fact assumed to be true under the law. (E.g. a criminal defendant is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty by the prosecution).

Further, in civil litigation, one party is initially presumed to be correct (usually the plaintiff); the other side bears the Burden of Proof.

Prodigal

A person who irresponsible with money and requires third-party intervention to avoid prejudicing himself/herself.

Property

All assets owned by a person (e.g. a house, vehicles and money).

Protection Order

An order that aims at preventing the reoccurrence of domestic violence or sexual harassment by stating what conduct the alleged offender must refrain from doing. Provided the respondent acts as required in the order, no further action may be taken; however, if the respondent contravenes the order, he/she may be arrested.


R

Rates Clearance Figures

An amount you are required to pay that will take your municipality account into credit; it is usually calculated based on your average monthly usage that is then multiplied by a factor of 3 to 6.  Also called a “Clearance Account“.

Representations

Suggestions that the consulting employees may come up with in response to certain matters relating to the proposed retrenchment.

Respondent

The person against whom an application is instituted; the party in a defending position in an application in Court.  Opposite to the Applicant.


S

Service

In litigation, means the delivery of legal document (including Notices) on upon parties to a lawsuit (i.e. an Action or Notice of Motion).

Sheriff

A person (officer of the Court) who is authorised to act in respect of Court process (e.g. deliver summonses or notices; attach property in terms of a Court Order).

Spouse

Persons married in terms of a civil marriage, customary marriage, religious marriage or civil union.


T

Testator

The person who sets out his/her wishes and requests as to how their estate should be divided in the form of a Will.


V

Void

A term used to describe a contract as being invalid and unenforceable.


W

Warrant of Arrest

A document issued by a magistrate or judge of the court, authorising the police to arrest a specific person for committing a specific act.

Warrant of Execution

A method of enforcing judgments that empower the Sheriff to attend a judgment debtor’s property and attach and/or remove goods for the purpose of sale.

Witness

A person who sees or hears something relevant to the matter that is or will be adjudicated by a Court.

Withholding Tax

A tax deducted at source, especially one levied by some countries on interest or dividends paid to a person resident outside that country.

Wrongful

An act that includes the intention to cause damage; or negligence that caused damage.

DISCLAIMER: THERE ARE MORE CONSIDERATIONS THAN WE CAN COVER IN THIS ARTICLE SO ONLY USE THIS INFORMATION AS A GUIDE.   THIS INFORMATION DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE.  IT IS ALWAYS BEST TO DISCUSS YOUR SITUATION WITH AN ATTORNEY; CONTACT US AT 0861 88 88 35helpdesk@gcm-legal.com AND THROUGH THE CONTACT FORM ON THIS PAGE.

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