U

U.N.
See: United Nations

U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Care, Katrina Recovery, And Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act Of 2007
An emergency appropriations act that, among other things, provided funding for the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, contained disaster relief related to Hurricane Katrina, and raised the federal minimum wage.

UBO
Short for unincorporated business organization. (See: Massachusets trust)

UCC
See: uniform commercial code

UCC Financing Statement
A standardized form that a lender files with a state agency (usually a Secretary of State) to secure an interest in personal property that the borrower used as collateral for a loan. Also called a UCC-1 Form.

UCC-1 Form
See: UCC financing statement

UCCJEA
See: Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act

Ultimate Fact
In a trial, a fact that is essential to the case.

Ultra Vires
(uhl-trah vey-rehz) Latin for "beyond powers." It refers to conduct by a corporation or its officers that exceeds the powers granted by law.

Ultrahazardous Activity
An action or process that is so inherently dangerous that there is strict liability for the person or entity conducting the activity. Examples: working with high explosives or conducting a professional auto race on public streets.

Unbundled Legal Services
The provision of legal services by an attorney who does not represent the client or take over the entire case, but performs specific services such as appearing at one hearing, preparing a legal brief, or negotiating a settlement after the client has prepared the case as a self-represented party. Most common in divorce cases.

Unclean Hands
See: clean hands doctrine

Unconscionability
See: unconscionable

Unconscionable
When one party to a contract takes advantage of the other due to unequal bargaining positions, perhaps because of the disadvantaged party's recent trauma, physical infirmity, ignorance, inability to read, or inability to understand the language. A contract will be terminated as unconscionable if the unfairness is so severe that it is shocking to the average person.

Unconstitutional
In opposition to the constitution. Used to describe to a statute, governmental conduct, court decision, or private contract that violates one or more provisions of the constitution. Can be used in reference to the federal constitution or a state constitution.

Uncontested Divorce
A divorce in which the parties are able to agree on how to divide their property and share custody of their children, and join together in filing the appropriate paperwork to have the divorce granted. (See also: default divorce)

Under The Influence
Phrase used to describe a person who is intoxicated, affected by the use of alcohol or drugs, or a combination of both. See: driving under the influence (DUI)

Undercapitalization
A situation in which a company does not have enough cash available to carry on its business.

Undersecured Debt
A debt secured by collateral that is worth less than the debtor owes. A $500,000 mortgage on a house worth $450,000 is undersecured, for example.

Underwater Mortgage
A home purchase loan that has a higher outstanding balance than the home's market value.

Underwrite
1) To agree to pay an obligation which may arise from an insurance policy. 2) To guarantee purchase of all shares of stock or bonds being issued by a corporation, including an agreement to purchase by the underwriter if the public does not buy all the shares or bonds. 3) To guarantee by investment in a business or project.

Underwriter
Another term for an insurer who assumes the risk of another's loss and compensates for the loss under the terms of an insurance policy.

Undisclosed Principal
A person whose identity is hidden either because an agent refuses to disclose the identity, or because the agent deliberately misleads third parties into believing that the agent is the principal. In either case, the third party does not know how to pursue the real principal in the event of a dispute.

Undivided Interest
Ownership right to use and possess property that is shared by two or more co-owners. No individual co-owner has an exclusive right to any portion of the property. See: joint tenancy, tenants in common, tenancy by the entirety

Undocumented Immigrant
A foreign-born person who lacks a right to be in the United States, having either entered without inspection (and not subsequently obtained any right to remain) or stayed beyond the expiration date of a visa or other status.

Undue Burden
In the field of reproductive rights, having the purpose or effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a fetus that is not yet viable. Laws that impose an undue burden on a fundamental right are unconstitutional under current Supreme Court cases.

Undue Hardship
1) An action to accommodate an employee or applicant with a disability that would require significant difficulty or expense when considered in light of factors such as an employer's size, financial resources, and the nature and structure of its operation. An employer need not provide an accommodation that would impose an undue hardship. (See: reasonable accommodation) 2) The circumstances in which a debtor may discharge a student loan in bankruptcy. For example, a debtor who has no income and little chance of earning enough in the future to pay off the loan may be able to show that repayment would be an undue hardship.

Undue Influence
Improper influence over someone who is making financial decisions, commonly about making gifts,leaving property at death, or signing a contract.Typically, it occurs when the person is susceptible to pressure because of illness or emotional state, and is taken advantage of by someone he or she depends on for guidance--for example, a lawyer or family member.Undue influence is a ground for challenging the validity of a will or other document in court. (See also: will contest)

Unearned Income
Income from investments, such as interest, dividends, or capital gains, or any other income that isn't compensation for services.

Unemployment Insurance (UI)
A joint state and federal program that provides some wage replacement for up to 26 weeks to employees who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. Most employees who are laid off or fired may collect unemployment, unless they were fired for willful misconduct.

Unenforceable Contract
A contract that is valid, but which a court will not enforce due to a technical defect. For example, an unsigned contract may be unenforceable in court. (Compare: voidable contract)

Unfair Competition
Any commercial behavior or activity that is legally unjust or deceptive. It includes such diverse activities as trademark infringement, false advertising, and theft of trade secrets but can include any illegal dirty tricks within the marketplace. If a court finds that an activity constitutes unfair competition, it will prevent that activity from occurring in the future and may award money damages to the person or company harmed by the activity.

Unified Estate And Gift Tax
See: estate tax, gift tax

Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction And Enforcement Act
A law in every state that determines which court has jurisdiction over custody matters involving children--in other words, where a custody action can be brought if the children have lived in different places in the period just before the custody action begins

Uniform Commercial Code
A set of laws that govern commercial transactions (such as sales, warranties, negotiable instruments, loans secured by personal property, and other commercial matters) that has been adopted in some form in every state.

Uniform Gifts To Minors Act (UGMA)
A uniform law, adopted by many states, that allows an adult to give money or securities to a child but have the assets managed by someone of the donor's choosing, called a custodian. The gift is made during the donor's lifetime, not at death. The custodianship ends, and the property goes to the beneficiary outright, at an age set by state law, usually 18 or 21. Compare: Uniform Transfers to Minors Act

Uniform Law
A law written by legal scholars and adopted (often with modifications) by individual states.

Uniform Premarital Agreement Act
A law crafted by national lawmakers to promote consistency in prenuptial agreements from state to state. The UPAA governs such matters as what a premarital agreement can include and what will render an agreement unenforceable. The UPAA has been adopted in some form by most states.

Uniform Principal And Interest Act
A uniform statute, adopted by most states, that in its most recent version allows some trustees to make adjustments that were not formerly allowed. For example, a trustee could distribute principal to income beneficiaries if it were necessary to carry out the purpose of the trust.

Uniform Probate Code
A standard comprehensive set of laws, adopted in whole or in part by various states, that regulate the administration of estates, including wills and trusts.

Uniform Prudent Investor Act
A uniform statute that sets out guidelines for trustees to follow when investing trust assets.

Uniform Resource Locator (URL)
The address of a specific location on the Web. URLs commonly contain a domain name and a description of the material sought. For example, http://sites.google.com/a/joeldufresnecase.com/www/law-terms-and-legal-definitions/u  is the URL for information on Joel Dufresne Case website.

Uniform Simultaneous Death Act
A standard set of laws, enacted by some U.S. states, to deal with inheritance in the case that two people die simultaneously. The Act says that if two (or more) people die within 120 hours of each other, each is considered to have predeceased the other unless a will or other document specifies otherwise.

Uniform Transfer-On-Death Securities Registration Act
A statute that allows people to name a beneficiary to inherit stocks or bonds without probate. This is called registering the securities in beneficiary or transfer-on-death form. The owner of the securities can register them with a broker using a simple form that names a person to receive the property after the owner's death. Every state but Texas has adopted the statute.

Uniform Transfers To Minors Act
A statute, adopted by almost all states, that provides a method for transferring property to minors and arranging for an adult to manage it until the child is old enough to receive it. Often called by its acronym, UTMA.

Uniformed Services Employment And Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)
A federal law that guarantees certain employment rights to employees who serve in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, Reserves, Army or Air National Guard, or the Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service. USERRA prohibits discrimination against these employees, requires employers to reinstate them to the position they would have held if not for serving in the military, requires employers to restore their benefits on return from military service, and prohibits employers from firing them, except for cause, for up to one year after they return from military service.

Unilateral Contract
An agreement to pay in exchange for performance, if the potential performer chooses to act. An example would be if you promise to pay someone $1,000 if they bring your car from Cleveland to San Francisco. Bringing the car is acceptance (and performance) of the agreement. Compare: bilateral contract

Unincorporated Business Organization (UBO)
Any business that is not incorporated. Compare: corporation

Uninsured Motorist Clause
A clause in an automobile insurance policy that provides that if the owner or a passenger suffers any injury because of the actions of a driver of another vehicle who does not have liability insurance, the insurance company will pay its insured's actual damage

Union Security Agreement
A contract between an employer and a union requiring workers to make certain payments (called "agency fees") to the union as a condition of getting or keeping a job. Although it is illegal to require an employee to join a union, workers may be required to instead pay agency fees if such an agreement is in place. Union security agreements are prohibited in right to work states.

Union Shop
A business in which a majority of the workers have voted to name a union as their certified bargaining agent. Employers may hire nonunion workers, but these workers must join the union within a specified amount of time. Compare: closed shop

Unissued Stock
A corporation's shares of stock which are authorized by its articles of incorporation, but have never been issued (sold) to anyone.

United Nations
An international organization founded by 51 countries in 1945 (just after World War II) in an effort to maintain international peace and security, develop friendly relations among nations, and promote social progress, better living standards, and human rights. Currently, the UN consists of 192 member states, including the U.S. Its work includes peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, environmental protection, human rights, economic and social development, and the promotion of democracy.

United States Attorney
The prosecutor in charge of enforcing the federal criminal laws of the United States in a particular district. Each U.S. Attorney is responsible for enforcing certain federal civil statutes, such as the Civil Rights Act. U.S. Attorneys are appointed by the president and the job is considered a political plum. Typical cases brought by the U.S. Attorney and Assistant U.S. Attorneys are immigration violations, drug importation, securities fraud, and bank robberies. Any offense committed on federal property (such as a military base or national park) may be prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney.

United States Citizenship And Immigration Services (USCIS)
A branch of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). USCIS is primarily responsible for handling immigration benefits, such as applications for asylum, work permits, green cards, and citizenship.

United States Copyright Office
See: Copyright Office

United States Court Of Appeals For The Federal Circuit
A federal court that hears appeals on matters including the following: patent cases; certain customs and trademark cases; claims against the United States arising in federal district courts or federal agencies; and cases from the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, the U.S. Court of International Trade, and the U.S. Court of Veterans Appeals. The court was created under the Federal Courts Improvement Act of 1982, which merged the appellate division of the U.S. Court of Claims with the Court of Customs and Patent Appeals. The Federal Circuit consists of 12 active judges who are required to reside within 50 miles of the District of Columbia (D.C.).

United States Patent And Trademark Office (USPTO)
An administrative branch of the U.S. Department of Commerce charged with overseeing and implementing the federal laws on patents and trademarks. This includes examining, issuing, classifying, and maintaining records of all patents and trademarks issued by the United States.

United Steelworkers Of America V. Weber (1979)
A U.S. Supreme Court case in which the Court ruled that the 1964 Civil Rights Act provisions for affirmative action programs to encourage minority hiring for jobs in which the minorities were previously underrepresented were constitutional.

Universal Life Insurance
A type of whole life insurance that offers some additional features and advantages. Like whole life insurance, universal life insurance accumulates cash value through investment of the premium payments. The unique feature of universal life insurance is that it has variable premiums, benefits, and payment schedules, all of which are tied to market interest rates and the performance of the investment portfolio. Also, universal life policies normally provide the insured with more consumer information. For example, an insured person is told how much of the policy payment goes for insurance company overhead expenses, reserves, and policy proceed payments, and how much is retained and invested for the insured person's savings. This information isn't usually provided with whole life policies.

Unjust Enrichment
A legal principle that if a person receives money or other property unfairly and at the expense of another -- that is, by chance, mistake, or without any personal effort -- the recipient should return the property to the rightful owner. In lawsuits based on unjust enrichment, courts can order that the property be returned (referred to as making restitution).

Unlawful
See: illegal

Unlawful Assembly
When three or more people meet with the intention of carrying out an unlawful act to deliberately disturb the peace.

Unlawful Detainer
A legal action to evict a tenant that involves properly terminating the tenancy before going to court and seeking possession of the property, unpaid rent, and/or damages. Also known as an eviction lawsuit

Unlawful Enemy Combatant
1) Someone who is engaged in hostilities against the United States or its allies -- or who materially supports hostilities against the United States or its allies -- without being a member of a regular armed force of another country. 2) Someone declared an unlawful enemy combatant by the Combatant Status Review Tribunal. Currently defined by federal law in the Military Commissions Act of 2006. 

Unqualified Ownership
Ownership without conditions or limitations. Compare: qualified ownership

Unreasonable Search And Seizure
A search and seizure by a law enforcement officer without a search warrant and without probable cause to believe that evidence of a crime is present. Such a search or seizure is unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment (applied to the states by the Fourteenth Amendment), and evidence obtained from the unlawful search may not be introduced in court. (See also: fruit of the poisonous tree)

Unsecured Debt
A debt that doesn't give the creditor the right to take a particular item of property if the debtor doesn't pay. Examples include credit card debts and medical bills. Compare: secured debt

Upside-Down Mortgage
See: underwater mortgage

URL
See: Uniform Resource Locator

Use
The right to enjoy the benefits of real estate or personal property (but primarily used in reference to real estate), whether the owner of the right owns the property.

Use Tax
A tax imposed by a state to compensate for the sales tax lost when an item is purchased outside of the state, but is used within the state. For example, you buy your car in a state that has no sales tax, but you live across the border in a state that does have a sales tax. When you bring your car home and register it in your state, the state taxing authority may bill you for the sales tax it would have collected had you bought the car within the state.

Useful Life
The number of months or years, as determined by the IRS, that depreciable business equipment or property is expected to be in use.

Usefulness
A requirement for obtaining a utility patent. A patented invention must have some functional purpose or utility. The purpose does not have to be groundbreaking; it can be solely for amusement or a minor improvement on an existing invention.

Usufruct
The right to use property -- or income from property -- that is owned by another.

Usufructuary
Someone who has a usufruct, or the right to use property that is owned by someone else.

Usurious
Exceeding the maximum interest rate on a debt that is allowed by law.

Usury
Extending credit at an exorbitant or illegally high interest rate. States set their own maximum interest rates, and courts will not enforce payment of interest on a loan if the rate is usurious. Most credit card issuers are based in states with no usury laws or caps on credit card interest rates.

Utility Patent
The most common type of patent; issued for useful inventions that are new (novel) and that produce results that are not expected by those working in the field of invention (nonobvious). A utility patent lasts for 20 years from the patent application's filing date. (See also: patent, novelty, nonobviousness)

UTMA
See: Uniform Transfers to Minors Act

Utter
To speak, articulate, or issue (as in a forged document).

Uxor
See: et uxor