Face Amount
The original amount due on a promissory note or insurance policy as stated in the document, without calculating interest. (See also: par value)

Face Value
See: face amount

An actual thing or happening, which must be proved at trial by presentation of evidence and which is evaluated by the finder of fact (a jury in a jury trial, or by the judge if he or she sits without a jury).

Fact Finder
In a trial of a lawsuit or criminal prosecution, the jury or judge (if there is no jury) who decides if facts have been proven. Occasionally a judge may appoint a "special master" to investigate and report on the existence of certain facts.

A person who buys or sells in his or her own name on behalf of others, taking a commission for services. Also, a person or company that buys or sells accounts receivable at a discount or as security for short-term loans.

Failure Of Consideration
The refusal or inability of a contracting party to perform its side of a bargain.

Failure Of Issue
A situation in which a person dies without children or other direct descendants who could have inherited property.

Fair Comment
A statement of opinion (no matter how ludicrous) based on facts which are correctly stated, and which does not allege dishonorable motives on the part of the target of the comment. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that to protect free speech, statements made about a public person (politician, officeholder, movie star, author, etc.), even though untrue and harmful, are fair comment unless the victim can prove the opinions were stated maliciously -- with hate, dislike, intent, or desire to harm. Fair comment is a crucial defense used by members of the media against libel suits.

Fair Credit Billing Act (Fcba)
An amendment to the Truth in Lending Act that gives consumers the right to challenge errors on their credit card statements. Once notified of an error, the company must either correct it or explain why it believes the statement is correct within set time limits.

Fair Credit Reporting Act (Fcra)
A federal law that regulates the use and content of credit reports to protect consumer privacy and ensure the accuracy of the information they contain. The FCRA restricts the information that may be included in a credit report, limits who may request a credit report and how the report may be used, and requires credit reporting agencies and those who use credit reports (such as employers and landlords) to follow specified procedures in dealing with consumers.

Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (Fdcpa)
A federal law that prohibits certain debt collection practices, including harassing, abusing, or lying to debtors, contacting third parties about a debt (except in limited circumstances), and contacting debtors at work or at inconvenient hours. The FDCPA applies only to debt collectors who work for collection agencies, not those who work for the original creditor.

Fair Housing Act & Fair Housing Amendments Act
Federal laws that prohibit housing discrimination on the basis of race or color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. The federal Acts apply to all aspects of the landlord/tenant relationship, from refusing to rent to members of certain groups to providing different services during the tenancy. They also apply to the buying and selling of real estate.

Fair Labor Standards Act (Flsa)
A federal law that guarantees a worker's right to be paid fairly. The FLSA sets out the federal minimum wage, states requirements for overtime, and places restrictions on child labor.

Fair Market Value
The amount for which property would sell on the open market. This is distinguished from "replacement value," which is the cost of duplicating the property.

Fair Minimum Wage Act Of 2007
An act that raised the federally mandated minimum wage in three increments, eventually fixing the rate at $7.25 per hour in July 2009. The Act amended the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.

Fair Trade Laws
State laws that permitted manufacturers or producers to set minimum rates for the resale of the product. They have been repealed in most states.

Fair Use
A copyright principle that excuses unauthorized uses of a work when used for a transformative purpose such as research, scholarship, parody, criticism, or journalism. When determining whether an infringement should be excused on the basis of fair use, a court will use several factors including the purpose and character of the use, amount and substantiality of the portion borrowed, and effect of the use on the market for the copyrighted material. Fair use is a defense rather than an affirmative right -- that is, a particular use only gets established as a fair use if the copyright owner decides to file a lawsuit and the court upholds the fair use defense.

False Arrest
See: false imprisonment

False Imprisonment
A crime in which the perpetrator intentionally restrains another person without having the legal right to do so. This can literally mean physical restraint, such as locking someone in a car or tying the person to a chair. However, it's not necessary that physical force be used; threats or a show of apparent authority are sufficient. False imprisonment is a misdemeanor and a tort (a civil violation). If the perpetrator confines the victim for a substantial period of time (or moves the victim a significant distance) in order to commit a felony, the false imprisonment may become a kidnapping. People who are arrested and get the charges dropped, or are later acquitted, often think that they can sue the arresting officer for false imprisonment (also known as false arrest). These lawsuits rarely succeed: As long as the officer had probable cause to arrest the person, the officer will not be liable for a false arrest, even if it turns out later that the information the officer relied upon was incorrect.

False Pretenses
The crime of knowingly making untrue statements for the purpose of obtaining money or property fraudulently. It is one form of theft. False pretenses include claiming zircons are diamonds, turning back the odometer on a car, or falsely stating that a mine has been producing gold when it has not.

A group of people related by consanguinity or affinity.

Family Allowance
A certain amount of a deceased person's money to which immediate family members are entitled at the beginning of the probate process. The allowance is meant to help support the surviving spouse and children during the time it takes to probate the estate. The amount is determined by state law and varies greatly from state to state.

Family And Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
A federal law that requires qualifying employers to provide eligible employees with 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period to bond with a new child, care for a family member with a serious medical condition, or recover from a serious medical condition. At the end of the leave, the employer must allow the employee to return to the same or an equivalent position to that held before taking the leave.

Family Court
A separate court or a separate division of the regular state trial court, that considers only cases involving family-related issues, which could include divorce, child custody and support, guardianship, adoption, and the issuance of restraining orders in domestic violence cases.

Family Limited Partnership
A type of partnership comprising only related family members, usually created by parents in order to pass on a family business or investments to their childern. It provides significant federal gift and estate tax benefits because members of a family limited partnership (sometimes referred to as a FLP--pronounced "flip") own shares in the partnership which can be transferred between generations at lower tax rates.

Family Pot Trust
See: pot trust

Family Purpose Doctrine
The doctrine that the registered owner of a vehicle is liable for any damage caused by any member of the owner's family while operating the vehicle.

Family Smoking Prevention And Tobacco Control Act Of 2009
A federal law that gives the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the power to regulate the contents of tobacco products, disclose the ingredients of these products, and prohibit marketing campaigns that target children. Under this law, the agency can lower the amount of nicotine allowed in tobacco products, ban candy flavorings that appeal to kids, and block labels such "low tar" and "light." The law also requires tobacco companies to use large, graphic warnings on their cartons.

See: free appropriate public education

Fault Divorce
A tradition that required one spouse to prove that the other spouse was legally at fault, to obtain a divorce. The "innocent" spouse was then granted the divorce from the "guilty" spouse. The traditional fault grounds for divorce are adultery, cruelty, desertion, confinement in prison, physical incapacity, and incurable insanity. Today, all states offer no-fault divorce, but quite a few states also still allow a spouse to allege fault in obtaining a divorce, and some states also allow the court to consider fault in dividing property or awarding custody or visitation.

See: Fair Credit Billing Act

See: Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977

See: Fair Credit Reporting Act

See: Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

See: Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation

Fed. Cir.
See: United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

Federal Benefit Rate
The share of the SSI grant paid by the federal government. Many states add a supplementary grant to the federal benefit rate.

Federal Court
A branch of the United States government with power derived directly from the U.S. Constitution. Federal courts decide cases involving the U.S. Constitution, federal law -- for example, patents, labor law, federal taxes, and federal crimes, such as robbing a federally chartered bank. Federal courts may also decide cases where the parties are from different states and are involved in a dispute for $75,000 or more.

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)
A federal agency that promotes public confidence in the U.S. financial system by insuring deposits in banks and by limiting the effect on the economy when a bank fails.

Federal Land Policy And Management Act
Passed in 1976, this law provides a framework for the management of federal public lands. The Act recognized the value of the public lands and stated that they should be managed in perpetuity for the benefit of the American people on the basis of sustained yield and multiple use ("utilized in the combination that will best meet the present and future needs of the American people").

Federal Mine Safety And Health Act Of 1977
Also called the MINE Act, this law consolidated all federal health and safety regulations of the mining industry under a single statutory scheme. The Act covers all surface and underground mines, regardless of size, commodity mined, or method of extraction. The Act strengthens and expands the rights of miners and protects them from retaliation for enforcing their rights. The Act also defines violator penalties, the inspections process, and the procedure for closing particularly dangerous mines.

Federal Question
A basis for filing a lawsuit in federal district court -- namely, that it is based on subjects enumerated in the U.S. Constitution or a federal statute is involved. Existence of a federal question gives the federal court jurisdiction.

Federal Tax Deposits (FTD)
The biweekly or monthly deposit an employer is required make in a federal depository (bank) to submit payroll taxes withheld from employees, as well as employer contributions for Social Security and Medicare taxes, to the IRS.

Federal Tort Claims Act
A statute that allows recovery for damages caused by a federal employee if the injury occurred in the scope of the employee's job. It also establishes regulations and procedures for making such claims in federal courts.

Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
A federal government agency established to regulate business practices and enforce antitrust laws. The FTC often shows up in the news when big businesses attempt to merge, but it also plays a role in protecting consumers from unfair business practices, including actions by collection agencies and credit bureaus. While the FTC generally does not have authority to intervene in specific consumer disputes, it can take action against a company about which it has received numerous consumer complaints.

Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA)
Legislation which requires employers to contribute to a fund that pays unemployment insurance benefits.

1) Absolute title in land. It often appears in deeds which transfer title as "Mary Jo Stone grants to Howard Takitall in fee . . ." The word "fee" can be modified to show that the title was "conditional" on some occurrence or could be terminated ("determinable") upon a future event. 2) A charge for services.

Fee Simple
An old term meaning complete ownership of real estate. Owners with fee simple have no legal restrictions on their freedom sell the property, give it away, or leave it at death. it is sometimes used in real estate deeds, as in "Harry Hernandez grants to Roberta Irving title in fee simple . . ." Compare: fee tail

Fee Tail
A form of real estate ownership, now abolished, that required property to be passed only to the descendants of a certain person.This kept land in the family indefinitely.

A person who has been convicted of a felony, which is a serious crime punishable by imprisonment or in for the most serious felonies, death.

1) Refers to an act done with criminal intent. The term is used to distinguish between a wrong that was not malicious and an intentional crime, as in "felonious assault," which is an attack meant to do real harm. 2) Relating to a felony.

A serious crime (contrasted with less serious crimes such as misdemeanors and infractions), usually punishable by a prison term of more than one year or, in some cases, by death. For example, murder, extortion, and kidnapping are felonies; a minor fist fight is usually charged as a misdemeanor, and a speeding ticket is generally an infraction. In some states, certain crimes (known as wobblers) may be charged as both a misdemeanor and a felony, and the eventual designation depends on the defendant's ability to fulfill the conditions of his sentence. (See also: wobbler)

Felony Murder Doctrine
A rule that allows a killing that occurs in the course of a dangerous felony, even an accidental death, to be charged against the felon as first-degree murder. A felon can be guilty of murder during the course of the dangerous felony even if the felon is not the killer, as might happen when a robber kills a clerk -- the driver of the getaway car, as well as the robber, may be charged with first-degree murder. The rule extends to unusual circumstances, such as the killing of one of two bank robbers by a bank security officer (the surviving robber may be charged with murder).

Feres Doctrine
A legal doctrine that prevents people who are injured as a result of military service from successfully suing the federal government under the Federal Tort Claims Act. The doctrine comes from the U.S. Supreme Court case Feres v. United States, in which servicemen who picked up highly radioactive weapons fragments from a crashed airplane were not permitted to recover damages from the government. Also known as the Feres-Stencel doctrine or the Feres rule.

Fertile-Octogenarian Rule
An unrealistic legal fiction that any living person (male or female) is capable of having a child. In estate planning, this rule could defeat the intentions of a person leaving property to others. For example, if property could not pass to one's child as long as he or she might acquire a sibling, then the child would have to wait until both parents died, unnecessarily tying up the property. Most states have passed laws to cure this anomaly.

fi. fa.
See: fieri facias

Short for Federal Insurance Contributions Act tax, it is a payroll tax that incorporates the Social Security tax and Medicare tax. The FICA tax is 15.3% of an individual's earned income up to a certain limit (called the Social Security Wage Base) that increases each year, and then 2.9% of wages without limit.

Abbreviation for Fair Isaac Corporation, the biggest credit scoring company. (See also: credit score)

Fictitious Business Name
See: fictitious name

Fictitious Defendants
When a party suing (plaintiff) is not sure whether there are unknown persons involved in the suit, they are given fictitious names, usually designated Doe I, Doe II, and so forth, with an allegation in the complaint that if and when the true names are discovered they will be inserted in the complaint by amendment. Fictitious defendants are not permitted in federal cases.

Fictitious Name
Fictitious names are often used in conducting a business. They may also be used when filing a lawsuit against a party whose real name is unknown or when it is appropriate to conceal the true name of the party. (See also: doing business as (DBA))

A person or company that has the power and obligation to act for another under circumstances which require total trust, good faith, and honesty. Fiduciaries can include trustees, business advisers, attorneys, guardians, administrators of estates, real estate agents, bankers, stock brokers, title companies, or anyone who undertakes to assist someone who places complete confidence and trust in that person or company.

Fiduciary Relationship
A relationship in which an individual places complete confidence, trust, and reliance in someone who has a fiduciary duty to act for the individual's benefit. A fiduciary relationship need not be formally or legally established; it may be assumed where the fiduciary has superior knowledge and training compared to the person whose affairs the fiduciary is handling.

Field Sobriety Test
A preliminary test used by law enforcement officers to evaluate whether a driver is intoxicated. The test is performed on the side of the road where the driver was pulled over, and is designed to test the driver's ability to perform the type of mental and physical multitasking that is required to operate an automobile. The driver is often asked to stand on one foot and then the other, walk in a straight line, touch his or her nose with the forefinger of each hand, say the alphabet backward, and so on.

Fieri Facias
(fee-air-ee fay-shee-es) Latin for "that you cause to be done." This is a court document that instructs a sheriff to seize and sell a defendant's property in order to satisfy a monetary judgment against the defendant.

Fifa Lien
See: fieri facias

Fighting Words
Inflammatory words that are either injurious by themselves or might cause the hearer to immediately retaliate or breach the peace. Use of such words is not necessarily protected "free speech" under the First Amendment. If the hearer is prosecuted for assault, claiming fighting words may establish mitigating circumstances.

A term commonly used to describe both the process of submitting a document to a court -- for example, "I filed my small claims case today" -- and to describe the physical location where these papers are kept. Traditionally, a court's case files were kept indefinitely in one or more cardboard folders. Today most files -- especially those for inactive cases -- are stored electronically.

File And Suspend
A strategy that allows married taxpayers who retire at different ages to maximize Social Security benefits. Under this strategy, when the higher-earning spouse reaches full retirement age, that spouse files for benefits but immediately suspends them. This allows the lower-earning spouse to collect benefits based on the higher-earner's record without reducing the higher-earner eventual benefits. For example, Joe wants to work until he is 70 to maximize his Social Security payments. As the higher earning spouse, he "files and suspends" at age 66. This allows his 62-year-old wife, Jane, to file for increased benefits based on Joe's record. When Joe turns 70, he'll begin to collect benefits at a greater rate than if he had begun collecting at age 66. Using this strategy, Jane's spousal and survivor benefits will also be greater.

A procedural maneuver used to obstruct a bill in the U.S. Senate. A filibuster occurs when a senator who is engaged in debate refuses to yield the floor, thus preventing a roll call vote from taking place.

Filing Fee
A fee charged by a public official to accept a document for processing. For example, you must usually pay a filing fee to submit pleadings to the court in a civil matter, or to put a deed on file in the public record.

Final Beneficiary
The person or institution designated to receive trust property upon the death of a life beneficiary. For example, Jim creates a trust through which his wife Jane receives income for the duration of her life. Their daughter, the final beneficiary, receives the trust principal after Jane's death.

Final Decree
A final judgment in a court case.

Final Judgment
The final determination of a court case, put in writing by the judge who presided over the case. (See also: final decree)

Final Settlement
An agreement reached by the parties to a lawsuit, usually in writing or read into the record in court, settling all issues. Usually there are elements of compromise, waiver of any right to reopen or appeal the matter even if there is information found later which would change matters (such as recurrence of a problem with an injury), mutual release of any further claim by each party, a statement that neither side is admitting fault, and some action or payment by one or both sides. In short, the case is over, provided the parties do what they are supposed to do according to the final settlement's terms.

Final Settlement
An agreement reached by the parties to a lawsuit, usually in writing or read into the record in court, settling all issues. Usually there are elements of compromise, waiver of any right to reopen or appeal the matter even if there is information found later which would change matters (such as recurrence of a problem with an injury), mutual release of any further claim by each party, a statement that neither side is admitting fault, and some action or payment by one or both sides. In short, the case is over, provided the parties do what they are supposed to do according to the final settlement's terms.

Financial Guardian
See: guardian of the estate

Finder's Fee
A fee charged by real estate brokers and apartment-finding services in exchange for locating a rental property. These fees are permitted by law. Some landlords, however, charge finder's fees merely for renting a place. This type of charge is not legitimate and, in some areas, is specifically declared illegal.

The determination by the trier of fact (judge or jury) of a factual question submitted to it for decision. Often referred to as a finding of fact. A finding of fact is distinguished from a conclusion of law, which is determined by the judge as the sole legal expert.

Finding Of Fact
See: finding

Fire Insurance
An insurance policy that pays the beneficiary of the policy if property covered by the policy is damaged by fire. Fire insurance often covers damage caused other events as well, such as wind or rain damage.

Firm Offer
An offer (usually in writing) which states it may not be withdrawn, revoked, or amended for a specific period of time. If the offer is accepted without a change during that period, there is a firm, enforceable contract.

First Amendment
The amendment to the U.S. Constitution that guarantees freedom of religion, freedom of expression (including speech, press, assembly, association, and belief), and freedom to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
First Amendment (Cornell University's Legal Information Institute)

First Degree Murder
The intentional killing of another person by someone who has acted willfully, deliberately, or with planning. All murder that is committed with poison or by lying in wait is first degree murder.

First Impression
See: case of first impression

Fiscal Sponsor
A nonprofit, tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) organization that acts as a guardian of grants and donations for a fledgling group or project that hasn't yet applied for or received 501(c)(3) status.

Fiscal Year Accounting Period
A 12-month period ending on the last day of any month except December. Many businesses are required to use a calendar year as their tax year, but if you can prove that your business has a natural business year that is different from the calendar year, you might be able to adopt a fiscal tax year.

Fishing Expedition
Legal grasping at straws; the use of pretrial investigation discovery or witness questioning in an unfocused attempt to uncover damaging evidence to be used against an adversary.

The ability of a prospective adoptive parent to provide for the best interests of a child the parent wishes to adopt. A court may consider many aspects of the prospective parents' lives in evaluating their fitness to adopt a child, including financial stability, marital stability, career obligations, other children, physical and mental health, and criminal history.

Fixed Annuity
An annuity that provides payments of a set amount for the recipient's life or some other specified term.Compare: variable annuity

Fixed Asset
Long-term tangible property used in the operation of a business that is not readily converted into cash or consumed in the ordinary course of business. Examples include machinery, buildings, fixtures, and equipment. Also referred to as a capital asset.

Fixed In A Tangible Medium Of Expression
A requirement for copyright protection. A work must be recorded in some physical medium, whether on paper, canvas, disk, or computer hard drive. This means that spontaneous speech or musicianship that is not recorded, (a jazz solo at a live performance, for instance) is not protected by copyright.

Fixed Rate Mortgage
A mortgage loan that has an interest rate that remains constant throughout the life of the loan, usually 15 or 30 years.

Fixed Trust
See: nondiscretionary trust

Anything that has been attached to real estate in such a way as to become part of the premises. Unless the owner of the fixture and the owner of the real estate agree otherwise, the fixture becomes the property of the landowner once it is attached. When a tenant has installed a heater, window box, or other item that is bolted, nailed, screwed, or wired into the wall, ceiling, or floor, it becomes the property of the landlord. A trade fixture is an item needed by a business, such as machinery or other equipment, and despite its name, these usually do not become part of the building (commercial leases typically include a clause allowing tenants to remove these fixtures when the lease is up).

Flexible Savings Account (FSA)
An account into which employees may set aside pretax income for medical expenses not paid by health insurance (such as co-payments, premiums, and expenses that are outside of the employer's plan) or for dependent care expenses.

Running away or hiding to avoiding arrest or prosecution.

A popular real estate investment strategy in hot markets where someone buys a property for investment and resells it a short time later for a profit (often after making improvements to the property).

See: Federal Land Policy and Management Act

See: free on board

For Sale By Owner
Selling your house without a real estate agent. Doing so can save you a commission but requires that you devote time and energy not only to marketing and showing the house but also to learning and following the legal rules controlling sales of real estate in your area. Commonly referred to as FSBO, pronounced "fizzbo."

For Value Received
A phrase used in a promissory note, bill of exchange, or other contract to show that some consideration (money or other value) has been given in exchange for whatever the contract requires.

Voluntarily refraining from doing something, such as asserting a legal right. For example, a creditor may forbear on its right to collect a debt by temporarily postponing or reducing the borrower's payments.

Force Majeure
A contract provision that excuses performance if its rendered impractical by a supervening event (sometimes known as an Act of God) -- for example, a fire. French for "a greater force."

Forced Sale
The sale of goods by a creditor of their owner, authorized by court order. For example, forced sales may occur when someone files for bankruptcy or goes through foreclosure.

Forced Share
See: elective share

Forcible Entry
The crime of taking possession of a house, other structure, or land by the use of physical force or serious threats against the occupants. This can include breaking windows, doors, or using terror to gain entry, as well as forcing the occupants out by threat or violence after having come in peacefully.

The legal process by which a creditor with a claim (lien) on real estate forces a sale of the property in order to collect on the lien. Foreclosure typically begins when a homeowner falls behind on mortgage payments for several months.(See also: judicial foreclosure, nonjudicial foreclosure)

Foreclosure Sale
The forced sale of real estate, usually at public auction, that has been foreclosed on - that is, that has been seized by the lender after the borrower defaulted on mortgage payments.

Foreign Corporation
A corporation that is incorporated under the laws of a different state or nation. In the U.S., it usually refers to an out-of-state corporation. Out-of-state corporations must file a notice of doing business in any state in which they do business.

Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Of 1977 (FCPA)
Makes it unlawful to bribe a foreign official in an effort to obtain or retain business. The FCPA's anti-bribery provisions apply to people and businesses in the United States, to some foreign issuers of securities, and to foreign businesses and people who engage in bribery-related activity while in the U.S.

Foreign Divorce
A divorce obtained in a different state or country from the place where one spouse resides at the time of the divorce. As a general rule, foreign divorces are recognized as valid if the spouse requesting the divorce became a resident of the state or country granting the divorce, and if both parties consented to the jurisdiction of the foreign court. A foreign divorce obtained by one person without the consent of the other is normally not valid, unless the non consenting spouse later acts as if the foreign divorce were valid, for example, by remarrying.

Any material, such as evidence or testimony, suitable for use in court or other legal matters.

Forensic Animation
Computer animation used in court to recreate the events of an accident.

Forensic Medicine
The area of medical science that helps solve a legal question using scientific or technical facts. For example, coroners can often determine cause of death.

Forensic Testimony
Testimony given by an expert witness who uses expertise in science or technology to reach conclusions for a lawsuit or prosecution.

Generally, suitable for debate or argument. More specifically, forensics also refers to the use of science or technology to discover evidence for a court of law. For example, the forensics department of a police force may investigate crimes using science and technology.

The ability to reasonably anticipate the potential results of an action, such as the damage or injury that may happen if one is negligent or breaches a contract.

Foreseeable Risk
A likelihood of injury or damage that a reasonable person should be able to anticipate in a given set of circumstances. Foreseeable risk is a common affirmative defense put up by defendants in lawsuits for negligence, essentially claiming that the plaintiff should have thought twice before taking a risky action. Signs that warn "use at your own risk" do not bar lawsuits over injuries or damages from risks that weren't foreseeable.

To involuntarily lose property or rights as a penalty for violating the law. For example, one may have to forfeit one's driver's license due to multiple traffic violations or drunk driving.

The loss of property or a privilege due to breaking a law.

Someone who creates or attempts to pass off a false document, signature, or other imitation of an object of value.

A false document, signature, or other imitation of an object of value used with the intention to deceive another into believing it is the real thing. Those who commit forgery are commonly charged with the crime of fraud.

Form Interrogatories
Preprinted sets of questions that one party in a lawsuit asks an opposing party during the discovery process. Form interrogatories cover the issues commonly encountered in the kind of lawsuit at hand. For example, there are form interrogatories designed for contract disputes, landlord-tenant cases, personal injury cases, and others. Form interrogatories are often supplemented by specific questions written by the lawyers about the specific issues in the particular case.

Formula AB Trust
A trust funded with an amount no larger than the personal federal estate tax exemption of the year of death. (See also: AB trust)

Sexual intercourse between a man and woman who are not married to each other. Fornication is still on the books as a misdemeanor crime in some states, but following the Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas, can't be enforce.

A term found in contracts, court orders, and statutes, meaning as soon as can be reasonably done. It implies immediacy, with no excuses for delay.

Refers to the court in which a lawsuit is filed or in which a hearing or trial is conducted. The appropriate forum depends on which court has personal jurisdiction over the parties and the subject matter of the case.

Forum Non Conveniens
Latin for an inconvenient court. The idea that a court may change the venue of a lawsuit if that is more convenient for the parties. However, because strict written rules of jurisdiction and venue are used to decide where a case can and cannot be properly filed, this term has largely lost any real meaning. Also called forum inconveniens.

Forum Shopping
The process by which a plaintiff chooses among two or more courts that have the power -- technically, the correct jurisdiction and venue -- to consider the plaintiff's case. This decision is based on which court is likely to consider the case most favorably. In some instances, a case can properly be filed in two or more federal district courts as well as in the trial courts of several states -- and this makes forum shopping a complicated business. It often involves weighing a number of factors, including proximity to the court, the reputation of the judge in the particular legal area, the likely type of available jurors, and subtle differences in governing law and procedure.

Foster Care
Court-ordered care provided to children who are unable to live in their own homes, usually because their parents have abused or neglected them. Foster parents have a legal responsibility to care for their foster children, but do not have all the rights of a biological parent--for example, they may have limited rights to discipline the children, to raise them according to a certain religion, or to authorize nonemergency medical procedures for them.

Foster Parent
An adult who takes over care of a minor child who has been placed in the foster care system because the child's own family cannot take care of the child or have had custody taken away by a court or agency.

Four Corners Of An Instrument
The principle that a document's meaning should be derived from the document itself, without reference to anything outside of the document (extrinsic evidence), such as the circumstances surrounding its writing or the history of the party signing it.

The act of displaying another company's Web page within a bordered area of a website -- similar to the picture-in-picture feature offered on some televisions. For example, when a user enters a search engine request, the search engine might display the contents of an online store within the search engine's website, framed by the search engine's text and logos. When a Web page is framed within another website, the URL or domain name of the framed Web page is usually not displayed and users are not able to bookmark that site. (See also: URL, domain name)

1) A right granted by the government to a person or corporation, such as a taxi permit, bus route, an airline's use of a public airport, business license, or corporate existence. 2) To grant (for a periodic fee or share of profits) the right to operate a business or sell goods or services under a brand or chain name. Well-known franchise operations include McDonald's, Holiday Inns, Ace Hardware, Rexall Drug Stores, and Amway Distributors.

Franchise Agreement
The contract that establishes the terms of a franchise relationship.

Franchise Tax
A state tax on corporations or businesses.

An individual or entity that is granted a franchise.

An individual or entity that grants a franchise; also spelled franchisor.

1) The privilege of sending mail for free, granted to members of Congress. 2) A mark, stamp, or signature on mail that substitutes for postage. 3) A letter or package that has been franked. 4) The act of franking -- for example, to frank a letter

Fraternal Benefit Society Benefits
Benefits, often group life insurance, fraternal societies provide to their members. The Elks, Masons, or Knights of Columbus are common fraternal societies that provide benefits. Also called benefit society, benevolent society, or mutual aid association benefits. Under bankruptcy laws, these benefits are virtually always considered exempt property

Intentionally deceiving someone and causing that person to suffer a loss. Fraud includes lies and half-truths, such as selling a car that is a lemon and claiming "she runs like a dream." Or, failing to point out a mistake in a contract, such as a survey that shows ten acres of land being purchased and not 20 as originally understood. Fraud can be the basis of a civil lawsuit for damages and for prosecution as a crime.

Fraud In The Inducement
The use of deceit or trick to cause someone to act to his or her disadvantage, such as signing an agreement or deeding away real property. The heart of this type of fraud is misleading the other party as to the facts upon which that person will base his or her decision to act. Example: "There will be tax advantages to you if you let me take title to your property," or "You don't have to read the rest of the contract -- it is just routine legal language" but actually includes a balloon payment.

Fraudulent Conveyance
The transfer (conveyance) of title to real property for the express purpose of putting it beyond the reach of a known creditor. In such a case, the creditor may bring a lawsuit to void the transfer.

Fraudulent Transfer
In a bankruptcy case, a transfer of property to another for less than the property's value for the purpose of hiding the property from the bankruptcy trustee -- for instance, when a debtor signs a car over to a relative to keep it out of the bankruptcy estate. Fraudulently transferred property can be recovered and sold by the trustee for the benefit of the creditors.

Fraudulent Transfer Act
Act allowing a creditor to sue a debtor who intended to defraud a creditor by transferring property to another person without receiving reasonably equivalent value in return. In other words, if a business does not pay off its debts before selling its assets, the creditors of the business can void the transfer or get a judgment against the new owner of the assets and seize them to pay the debts. Most states have adopted this Act or an older version of it.

Free And Clear
Property ownership that is not subject to a secured debt, such as a mortgage or car loan. For example, if you have paid off the mortgage on your house and no creditor has filed a lien (claim) against it, you own your house free and clear.

Free Appropriate Public Education
A requirement of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act that a child with disabilities is entitled to an educational program (including classroom setting, teaching strategies, and services) that is individually tailored to meet his or her unique needs.

Free On Board (FOB)
A reference to the place where purchased goods will be shipped without transportation charge. Free on board at the place of manufacture shows there is a charge for delivery. Example: if an automaker in Detroit sells a car "FOB Detroit," then there will be a shipping charge if delivery is taken anywhere else.

An antiquated term for any interest in real estate that is of indeterminate length. It's distinguished from an interest that has a definite ending date, such as a lease. A life estate is an example of a freehold.

See: independent contractor

Majority shareholders in a company using their power to deprive one or more minority shareholders of their role in governing the company. This is done to force the minority shareholders to sell their stock at a reduced price and exit the company.

Fresh Pursuit
Also known as "hot pursuit," the chase by police of a person whom police have reason to believe has just committed a crime. In this situation, the officer may arrest the suspect without a warrant. Fresh pursuit also enables an officer to enter another jurisdiction (county or state) to pursue a fleeing suspect (normally, officers' abilities to arrest people are limited to their county and state).

Friendly Suit
A lawsuit brought by two parties, not as adversaries, but by agreement in order to resolve a legal question that affects them both. For example, two companies might bring a friendly suit to court in order to clarify the legal interpretation of a contract between them.

Friendly Witness
A witness whom you have called to testify on your behalf, and whom you may not cross-examine. If the witness testifies in a way that hurts your case, you can ask the judge to declare him or her a "hostile witness," which means that you can begin to cross-examine with leading questions.

Fringe Benefit
A benefit given to employees in addition to salary. Examples include health and life insurance, retirement plans, and paid holidays. Fringe benefits usually are not taxable for the employee and are generally tax deductible for the employer.

Quickly patting down the clothes of a suspect to search for a concealed weapon.

In a legal context, a lawsuit, motion, or appeal that lacks any basis and is intended to harass, delay, or embarrass the opposition. This can result in a successful claim by the other party for the costs of defense, including attorney's fees. Judges are reluctant to find an action frivolous, based on the desire not to discourage people from using the courts to resolve disputes.

Frolic And Detour
Employee conduct that is outside the scope of employment and is undertaken purely for the employee's own benefit. Although an employer is generally liable for the acts of its employees, an employer is not liable for damages employees cause while on a frolic and detour. For example, a delivery company could be liable for injuries one of its drivers causes while racing to make a delivery; it probably would not be liable if the same driver shot a guard while robbing a bank on his lunch hour.

Fruit Of The Poisonous Tree
In criminal law, the doctrine that evidence discovered through unconstitutional means (such as a forced confession or illegal search and seizure), may not be used as evidence against a criminal defendant. For example, if a suspect is arrested but is not read the Miranda rights, then tells the police the location of stolen property, and the police then find the stolen property as a result of the interrogation, the stolen property is inadmissible because it was acquired through an unconstitutional interrogation.

Frustration Of Purpose
See: commercial frustration

See: for sale by owner

See: Federal Trade Commission

See: Federal Tort Claims Act

Fugitive From Justice
A person convicted or accused of a crime who hides from law enforcement or flees the jurisdiction (perhaps across state lines) to avoid arrest or punishment.

Full Disclosure
1) The need in certain situations (such as real estate transactions) for both parties to tell the whole truth about all information relevant to the transaction. 2) Securities and Exchange Commission rule that a publicly traded company must release its financial statements and other important information relating to the company's business.

Full Faith And Credit
A Constitutional doctrine contained in Article IV, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution that requires courts and agencies in one state to recognize, respect, and enforce legal judgments and other actions from other states.

Fundamental Right
In constitutional law, certain rights protected by the due process or equal protection clause that cannot be regulated unless the regulating law passes a rigorous set of criteria (strict scrutiny). Fundamental rights, as defined by the Supreme Court, include various rights of privacy (such as marriage and contraception), the right to interstate travel, and the right to vote.

Funding A Trust
Transferring ownership of property to a trustee, so the property will be held in trust. With the most common kind of revocable living trust, this transfer takes place on paper only, because the person who sets up the trust and owns the property also serves as trustee.

Fungible Things
Sometimes called "fungibles," they are goods which are interchangeable, often sold or delivered in bulk, since any load is as good as another. Grain or gravel are fungibles, as are securities which are identical.

Furman V. Georgia (1972)
The U.S. Supreme Court case in which the Court ruled that the death penalty was unconstitutional because states imposed it in an arbitrary -- and sometimes racially biased -- manner. The Court also ruled that the death penalty could not be imposed for rape. After this decision, states rewrote their laws to address the Court's concerns, and the death penalty was reinstated in 1976 in the case of Gregg v. Georgia.

Future Interest
A right to receive property sometime in the future, either on a particular date or upon the occurrence of an event. For example, John's will leaves his house to his sister Marian, but only after the death of his wife, Hillary. Marian has a future interest in the house.