G

Gag Order
A judge's order prohibiting the attorneys and parties in a pending lawsuit or criminal prosecution from talking about the case to the media or the public.

Garnish
To get a court order requiring a third party that holds funds belonging to a debtor to set some portion of that money aside for the benefit of the creditor. For example, a court might issue an order garnishing the wages of a parent who owes child support; the employer is then required to withhold a certain amount of the parent's paycheck each month and send that money to someone -- often, the local sheriff -- to be paid to the other parent.

Garnishee
The person or entity (often a bank or employer) that receives a court order garnishing wages or funds it owes to a debtor. (See also: garnish)

Garnishment
A court-ordered procedure for taking money or property from someone to satisfy a debt. For example, a debtor's wages might be garnished to pay child support, back taxes, or a lawsuit judgment.

GATT
See: General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade

Gender Bias
Prejudice against people of a particular gender, usually women. Gender bias may result in discriminatory treatment or unequal opportunity.

Gender Identity
A person's self-identified gender, versus their anatomical gender at birth. In some states, it is illegal for employers to discriminate based on gender identity.

General Agreement On Tariffs And Trade (GATT)
A comprehensive free-trade treaty signed by most developed nations. Among other things, member countries are required to treat all other member countries equally in the application of import and export tariffs, offer basic copyright protection to authors from member countries, consult with each other about trade matters, and attempt to resolve differences in a peaceful manner. GATT created an international regulatory body known as the World Trade Organization (WTO) to enforce compliance with the agreement.

General Appearance
The first time an attorney appears in court on behalf of a client; after making a general appearance, the attorney is then responsible for all future appearances in court unless officially relieved by court order or substitution of another attorney.

General Bequest
A bequest of money in a will. Compare: specific bequest

General Counsel
The senior attorney for a corporation.

General Damages
Monetary recovery in a lawsuit for injuries suffered or breach of contract for which there is no exact dollar value that can be calculated. General damages can include, for example, pain and suffering, compensation for a shortened life expectancy, and loss of the companionship of a loved one.

General Denial
An answer to a lawsuit or claim, in which the defendant denies everything alleged in the complaint without specifically denying any allegation. (See also: denial)

General Journal
See: general ledger

General Ledger
A book or computer file where double-entry accounting entries are recorded for a business.

General Partner
A person who joins with at least one other to own and operate a business for profit -- and who (unlike a corporation's owners) is personally liable for all the business's debts and obligations. A general partner's actions can legally bind the entire business. (See also: partnership, limited partnership)

General Plan
A term sometimes used to describe a land-use document that lays forth the plan of a city, county, or area, typically establishing zones for different types of development, uses, traffic patterns, and future development. (See also: zoning)

General Power Of Attorney
A broad power of attorney document that gives the named agent power to handle all matters permitted by law on behalf of the person (called "the principal") who executed the document. Compare: limited power of attorney

Generation-Skipping Transfer
A transfer (during life or at death) made tby a grandparent to a grandchild, skipping the middle generation. Very large transfers of this kind are subject to a special federal generation-skipping transfer tax.

Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax
A federal tax imposed on large amounts of money given or left to a grandchild or great-grandchild. Its purpose is to keep families from avoiding the estate tax that would be due if the oldest generation left property to their children, who then left it to their children (the original giver's grandchildren). Currently, the exempt amount is $3.5 million, so this tax applies only to people wealthy enough to transfer more than that to their grandchildren. It is imposed in addition to any estate tax due.

Generation-Skipping Trust
A trust designed to save on estate tax. The trust principal is preserved for the trust maker's grandchildren, with his or her children receiving only income from the trust. Because the children (the middle generation) never legally own the property, it isn't subject to estate tax at their death. (See also: generation-skipping transfer tax)

Generic
In trademark law, the status of a word or symbol commonly used to describe an entire type of product or service rather than to distinguish one product or service from another. An example is "raisin bran," used by several manufacturers of breakfast cereals to describe their products. Generic terms can never receive trademark protection because they don't serve the basic function of trademarks to distinguish goods and services in the marketplace. (See also: genericide)

Genericide
A process by which a trademark owner loses trademark rights because the trademark is used widely and indiscriminately to refer to a type of product or service. For example, escalator was originally a protected trademark used to designate the moving stairs manufactured by a specific company. Eventually, the word became synonymous with the very idea of moving stairs and thus lost its trademark protection. Other examples of trademarks that have become generic terms are lite beer, soft soap, and cola. (See also: generic)

Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA)
A federal law passed in 2008, which prohibits health insurers and employers from discriminating on the basis of an employee's or applicant's genetic information.

Geneva Conventions
The four international treaties signed at Geneva on August 12, 1949. These conventions limit the military tactics that a country can use, and they set standards designed to protect people who fall under enemy control -- either as wounded soldiers, prisoners of war, or civilians living under an occupying force.

Gibbons V. Ogden (1824)
A U.S. Supreme Court case in which Chief Justice John Marshall's decision struck down state barriers to interstate commerce. The case involved a steamboat operator who was denied a license by one of the states he serviced.

Gideon V. Wainright (1963)
A U.S. Supreme Court case in which the Court used the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to extend the constitutional right to an attorney in federal criminal cases for those who could not afford representation to indigent defendants in state prosecutions. The indigent defendant was represented gratis by future Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas. The ruling greatly increased the use of public defenders. In 2002, the Court ruled the right applied in all cases where jail time is a possible punishment.

Gift
1) A voluntary transfer of property without payment or conditions. 2) The thing that is transferred.

Gift Causa Mortis
See: gift in contemplation of death

Gift In Contemplation Of Death
A gift of personal property (not real estate) by a person expecting to die soon. If a gift is made in contemplation of death, it is included in the value of the deceased person's estate for federal tax purposes. In Latin, called a gift causa mortis.

Gift Tax
A federal tax assessed on gifts; it is officially called the unified gift and estate tax because it applies to property that is given away during life or left at death. Most gifts made during life are exempt from the tax, including gifts of up to $13,000 per year per recipient, gifts to tax-exempt charities, gifts to your spouse (up to $134,000 annually if the recipient isn't a U.S. citizen), and gifts made for tuition or medical bills. Any person can give away or leave at death a total of $5 million free of the gift and estate tax. The tax is assessed at death unless you give away more than the exempt amount ($5 million) in taxable gifts during life. See also: estate tax

Gitlow V. New York (1925)
A U.S. Supreme Court case in which the Court ruled that the First Amendment right to free speech applied to state laws under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Go Bail
Slang for putting up the bail money to get an accused defendant out of jail after an arrest or pending trial or appeal. (See also: bail)

Going Out
Court slang for going to trial, meaning the trial will start either right away or shortly. For example, a clerk might tell assembled lawyers who are expecting to go to trial that day, "Your case is going out today at 10 a.m. in Department 9."

Golden Parachute
An agreement by a corporation with an executive to provide substantial payments to the executive in the event of a change in ownership or early retirement.

Golden Rule Argument
During a jury trial, an attempt to persuade the jurors to put themselves in the place of the victim or the injured person and deliver the verdict that they would wish to receive if they were in that person's position. For example, if the plaintiff in a personal injury case has suffered severe scarring, the plaintiff's lawyer might ask the jury to come back with the verdict they themselves would want to receive had they been disfigured in such a manner. As a rule, judges frown upon this type of argument, because jurors are supposed to consider the facts of a case in an objective manner.

Gonzalez V. Raich (2005)
The U.S. Supreme Court case in which the Court held that Congress had the right to outlaw medical marijuana, even in states that had laws expressly allowing it.

Good Cause
A legally sufficient reason for a ruling or other action by a judge.

Good Faith
Honest intent to fulfill a promise to act or to act without taking an unfair advantage over another person. Absence of intent to defraud someone.

Good Faith Estimate (GFE)
A disclosure that real estate mortgage lenders must, under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), give to all mortgage loan applicants within three days of when they apply. The disclosure must estimate all settlement charges the homebuyer will need to pay at closing, such as the lender's fees and other closing costs.

Good Samaritan Rule
The doctrine that protects a volunteer who comes to the aid of an injured or ill stranger from being sued for contributory negligence, as long as the volunteer aid-giver (the Good Samaritan) acted with reasonable care.

Good Title
See: clear title

Goods
Items held for sale in the regular course of business, as in a retail store.

Goods & Chattels
See: personal property

Goodwill
The benefit a business has through its name and good reputation. Goodwill is not a tangible asset like equipment or inventory. In an acquisition, goodwill is valued as the amount paid for the business above the fair market cost of all the business's assets.

Governing Law
A contract provision (also known as a choice of law) that determines which states laws should be followed in the event of a dispute.

Governmental Immunity
See: sovereign immunity

Grace Period
A period of time during which a debtor is not required to make payments on a debt or will not be charged a fee. For example, most credit cards offer a grace period of 20 to 30 days before interest is charged on purchases; as long as you pay your bill in full within the grace period, you won't owe any interest. Similarly, many student loans offer a grace period for at least a few months after graduation, so new graduates don't have to start repaying their loans right away.

Graham V. Florida (2010)
The U.S. Supreme Court case in which the Court ruled that juvenile offenders cannot be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for a non-homicide crime, because such a sentence violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.

Grand Jury
A group of people chosen at random that sits on a regular basis to hear evidence brought by a prosecutor. The prosecutor presents evidence against a person that he or she thinks will justify an indictment (formal charges) and a trial. Grand juries, unlike petit juries, meet in secret, need not reach unanimous decisions, and do not decide on a person's guilt or evidence (they only decide whether the person should stand trial). (See also: petit jury)

Grand Jury Witness
A witness who testifies before a grand jury.

Grand Larceny
The crime of theft of another's property over a certain value set by state law (for example, $500). It is distinguished from petty (or petit) larceny, which is the theft of property that is lesser in value. Some states recognize only the crime of larceny, but have both misdemeanor larceny (punishable by imprisonment in a local jail and a fine) and felony larceny (punishable by state prison time).

Grand Theft
See: grand larceny

Grandfather Clause
1) A provision in a new law that limits its application to individuals or businesses that are new to the system, while those already in the system are exempt from the new regulation. For example, when Washington, DC, raised its drinking age from 18 to 21, people between those ages, who could drink under the old law, were allowed to retain the right to legally consume alcohol under a grandfather clause. 2) A provision of several Southern states' constitutions in the late 1800s designed to to keep blacks from voting; now unconstitutional, these grandfather clauses denied the vote to people who were illiterate or did not own property, unless their descendants had voted before 1867.

Grandfathered In
See: grandfather clause

Grant
To give, sell, or otherwise transfer something to someone. (See also: grant deed)

Grant Deed
A deed to real estate containing an implied promise that the person transferring the property actually has good title and that the property is not encumbered in any way, except as described in the deed. This is the most commonly used type of deed. Compare: quitclaim deed, warranty deed

Grantee
Someone who receives title to real estate from a seller (grantor) in a document called a grant deed or quitclaim deed.

Grantor
1) Someone who transfers ownership of real estate through a grant deed. 2) Someone who creates a trust; also called a settlor or trustor.

Grantor-Grantee Index
A set of records found in the county land records office, listing current and past owners of all parcels of real estate in the county. You can find information about the ownership of real estate by looking up the name of a grantor (person selling or leaving the property) or grantee (buyer or inheritor). These records, once kept in large bound books, are now generally on microfilm or digital media.

Grantor-Retained Annuity Trust
See: grantor-retained trust

Grantor-Retained Income Trust
See: grantor-retained trust

Grantor-Retained Trust
An irrevocable trust designed to save on estate tax. There are several kinds; with all of them, you keep income from trust property, or use of that property, for a period of years. When the trust ends, the property goes to the final beneficiaries you've named. These trusts are for people who have enough wealth to feel comfortable giving away a substantial hunk of property. They come in three flavors: grantor-retained annuity trusts (GRATs), grantor-retained unitrusts (GRUTs), and grantor-retained income trusts (GRITs).

Gratuitous
Voluntary or free.

Gravamen
The essential element of a lawsuit. For example, the gravamen of a lawsuit involving a car accident might be the careless driving (negligence) of the defendant.

Green Card
The well-known term for an Alien Registration Card (ARC). This plastic photo identification card is given to people who are legal permanent residents of the United States. It serves as a U.S. entry document, enabling holders to return to the United States after temporary absences, and it proves their right to work in the United States. The green card expires after a certain number of years and must be renewed -- but note that the holder's permanent residence itself doesn't expire, only the ability to prove it using the card.

Greenhouse Gases
Gases that absorb the sun's infrared radiation and trap its heat in the earth's atmosphere. Common greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide and methane.

Greenmail
A situation in which a person or entity (the greenmailer) buys enough stock in a public company to threaten a hostile takeover. The greenmailer offers to end the threat to the company by selling its stock back at a higher price. The term combines the words greenback and blackmail.

Gregg V. Georgia (1976)
A U.S. Supreme Court case in which the Court held that the death penalty for murder was not in and of itself a cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the Eighth Amendment. The Court also ruled that the character of the defendant was to be considered when deciding whether to impose the death penalty.

Griggs V. Duke Power Co. (1971)
The U.S. Supreme Court case in which the Court established that neutral employment practices that have a discriminatory effect can violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, even if the employer did not intend to discriminate.

Griswold V. Connecticut (1965)
The U.S. Supreme Court case in which the Court struck down a law that prohibited married couples from using birth control. In so doing, the Court affirmed that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees a right to privacy, even though it does not explicitly say so.

Gross Estate
For the purpose of determining whether or not an estate must file a federal estate tax return, the total of all property someone owned at death, without regard to any debts or liens against the property or the costs of probate. Taxes are due only on the value of the property the person actually owned (the net estate) plus the amount of taxable gifts made during the last three years of life. In a few states, the gross estate is used when computing attorney fees for probating estates; the lawyer gets a percentage of the gross estate.

Gross Income
The total income of an individual or business from all sources, before subtracting adjustments, exemptions, or deductions allowed by tax law.

Gross Lease
A commercial real estate lease in which the tenant pays a fixed amount of rent per month or year, regardless of the landlord's operating costs, such as maintenance, taxes and insurance. A gross lease closely resembles the typical residential lease. The tenant may agree to a "gross lease with stops," meaning that the tenant will pitch in if the landlord's operating costs rise above a certain level. In real estate lingo, the point when the tenant starts to contribute is called the "stop level," because thats where the landlords share of the costs stops.

Gross Negligence
A lack of care that demonstrates reckless disregard for the safety or lives of others, which is so great it appears to be a conscious violation of other people's rights to safety. It is more than simple inadvertence, and can affect the amount of damages.

Grounds For Divorce
Legal reasons for requesting a divorce. All states require a spouse who files for divorce to state the grounds. Now that no-fault divorce is prevalent, the most common ground for divorce is "irreconcilable differences."

Group Insurance
A single insurance policy, such as life or health insurance, under which individuals in a group -- for example, employees (and sometimes their dependents) -- are covered, as long as they remain part of the group.

Group Life Insurance
Life insurance available through an employer or association that covers participating employees and members under one master insurance policy. Most group life insurance policies are term insurance policies, that terminate when the member or employee reaches a certain age or leaves the organization and do not accumulate any cash surrender value.

Grutter V. Bollinger (2003)
The U.S. Supreme Court case in which the Court ruled that a law school could consider race when making admissions decisions. The Court found that the law school had an interest in pursuing the educational benefits that come from having a racially diverse student body.

Guarantee
See: guaranty

Guaranteed Reservation
A hotel or rental car reservation secured by a credit card number. In exchange for your card number, the hotel or rental agency promises to have a room or vehicle for you no matter when you show up. If you have a guaranteed reservation with a hotel, it must provide you with a room, either at that hotel or at another comparable establishment. If you have a guaranteed reservation with a car agency, it must provide you with a vehicle. The downside of a guaranteed reservation is that if you don't show up and haven't cancelled your reservation, you will be billed for one night in the room or one day's use of the vehicle

Guaranteed Signature
A signature that has been witnessed by a person -- commonly, a bank employee -- who is qualified to guarantee signatures. Companies often require guaranteed signatures on documents requesting the reregistration of stocks in the name of someone who has inherited them.

Guarantor
A person or entity that makes a legally binding promise to be responsible for another's debt or performance under a contract, if the other defaults or fails to perform. The guarantor gives a "guaranty," which is an assurance that the debt or other obligation will be fulfilled.

Guaranty
When used as a verb, to agree to pay another person's debt or perform another person's duty, if that person fails to come through. As a noun, the written document in which this assurance is made. For example, if you cosign a loan, you have made a guaranty and will be legally responsible for the debt if the borrower fails to repay the money as promised. The person who makes a guaranty is called the guarantor. Also known as a guarantee or warranty.

Guardian
An adult who has been appointed by a court to control and care for a minor or the minor's property. Someone who looks after a child's property is usually called a "guardian of the estate." An adult who has legal authority to make personal decisions for the child, including responsibility for his physical, medical, and educational needs, is often called a "guardian of the person." Sometimes just one person will be named to take care of all these tasks. An individual appointed by a court to look after an incapacitated adult may also be known as a guardian, but is more frequently called a conservator.

Guardian Ad Litem
A person, not necessarily a lawyer, who is appointed by a court to represent and protect the interests of a child or an incapacitated adult during a lawsuit. For example, a minor who is a party to a lawsuit must have a guardian ad litem (often a parent) to act in the minor's behalf with regard to decisions like whether or not to take a settlement offer. A guardian ad litem (GAL) may also be appointed to represent a child whose parents are locked in a contentious battle for custody.

Guardian Of The Estate
Someone appointed by a court to care for the property and finances of a minor child or an incapacitated adult. A guardian of the estate may also be called a property guardian, financial guardian, or conservator of the estate. Compare: guardian of the person

Guardian Of The Person
Someone appointed by a court to make personal decisions for a minor child or an incapacitated adult, commonly called a ward. Such decisions usually include day-to-day living arrangements, health care, education, and other matters related to the ward's comfort and well-being. A guardian of the person may also be called a personal guardian or conservator of the person. Compare: guardian of the estate

Guardianship
A legal relationship created by a court between a guardian and a ward--either a minor child or an incapacitated adult (although the latter relationship is more commonly called a conservatorship). The guardian has a legal right and duty to care for the ward. This may involve making personal decisions on the ward's behalf, managing the ward's property, or both.

Guest Statute
A law in only a few states that prevents a nonpaying automobile passenger from suing the driver when the passenger is hurt as a result of the simple negligence of the driver. In general, the social passenger can sue the driver only if the driver's actions constitute gross, or extreme, negligence. Examples might include drunk driving, playing "chicken," driving a car knowing that the brakes are faulty, or continuing to drive recklessly after the passenger has asked the driver to stop or asked to be let out.

Guilty
In a criminal case, the admission by a defendant that he has committed a charged crime, or the finding by a judge or a jury that the defendant has committed the crime.

Gun Control
Term used to describe federal, state, and local laws and efforts that seek to regulate the way guns are bought, sold, carried, used, and owned in the U.S.