W

W-2 Form
An IRS form on which wages paid to employees are reported by employers.

Wage Attachment
See: attachment

Wages
Compensation that a worker receives in exchange for labor.

Waive
To voluntarily give up a right, including not enforcing a term of a contract (such as insisting on payment on an exact date), or knowingly giving up a legal right (such as a speedy trial). (See also: waiver)

Waiver
The intentional and voluntary giving up of a right, either by an express statement or by conduct (such as by not enforcing a right). A waiver accomplished by conduct may be interpreted as giving up the right to enforce the same right in the future. For example, a landlord who never invokes his "no pets" rule and allows tenants to keep dogs may not be able to successfully invoke the rule at a future date. A waiver of a legal right in court, such as the right to a jury trial, must be expressed on the record.

Wanton
1) Behavior that is grossly negligent and recklessly unconcerned with the safety of people or property. For example, speeding past a school while students are leaving, or firing a shotgun in a crowded public park, are wanton acts that will, if someone is killed, justify a charge of second degree murder. 2) Sexually immoral and unrestrained.

Ward
1) A person (usually a minor) who has a guardian appointed by the court to care for and take responsibility for that person. Such a person is a "ward of the court" (if the custody is court-ordered) or a "ward of the state." 2) A political division of a city. (See also: guardian)

Warrant
See: search warrant, arrest warrant

Warranty
A promise or assurance that may be express, implied by the circumstances, or implied by law. A warranty might be an express or implied statement that particular facts are true (for example, that merchandise may be used for particular purposes or that the seller has clear title to real estate). A warranty might be a promise to repair property within a certain period of time, or a legal obligation incident to a contract (for example, an implied warranty that leased residential property is habitable). (See also: express warranty, extended warranty contracts, home warranty, implied warranty of habitability, implied warranty of merchantability, warranty deed)

Warranty Adjustment Program
See: secret warranty program

Warranty Deed
A kind of real estate deed that contains express assurances about the legal validity of the title being transferred to the new owner. (See also: grant deed, quitclaim deed)

Warranty Of Fitness
See: implied warranty

Warranty Of Merchantability
See: implied warranty

Wash Sale
The selling and repurchasing of an asset, usually stocks or bonds, within a very short time frame. People used to do this to realize a loss for tax purposes, but the IRS caught on and made such losses nondeductible for most taxpayers.

Washington Dc Voting Rights Amendment
An attempt to amend the U.S. Constitution to give the citizens of the District of Columbia the same full representation in Congress as any state. Proposed in 1978, the amendment expired in 1985 and was never ratified.

Waste
Damage to real estate by a tenant that lessens its value to the owner or future owner. An owner can sue for damages for waste, terminate the lease of a tenant committing waste, or obtain a court order against further waste.

Watered Stock
Shares of stock of a corporation that were issued at a price greater than fair market value. The actual value of watered stock is less than the value carried on the books of the corporation.

Watkins V. United States (1957)
The U.S. Supreme Court case in which the Court ruled that by finding the defendant in contempt for refusing to testify against others, the Subcommittee of the House of Representatives Committee on Un-American Activities violated the defendant's Fifth Amendment right to due process.

Waxman-Markey Bill
See: American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009

Weight Of Evidence
The strength, value, and believability of evidence. (See also: preponderance of the evidence)

Wet Reckless
A reckless driving charge that is labeled as "alcohol related." It is usually made as a result of a plea bargain in which a charge of drunk driving has been reduced. A "wet reckless" occurs when the amount of alcohol is borderline illegal, there was no accident, and the defendant has no prior record. If there is a subsequent drunk driving conviction the "wet reckless" is usually considered a "prior" drunk driving conviction and can result in a sentence required for a second conviction. (See also: drunk driving, plea bargain, DUI, DWI)

Whiplash
A common neck or back injury, often suffered in automobile accidents in which the head and/or upper back is snapped back and forth suddenly and violently.

Whistleblogger
A whistleblower who raises concerns about a company's misconduct or wrongdoing on a blog.

Whistleblower
An employee who raises concerns about misconduct or wrongdoing within the company where the person works.

White-Collar Crime
A variety of nonviolent financial crimes, generally committed by businesspeople or public officials,involving commercial fraud, consumer fraud, swindles, insider trading on the stock market, embezzlement, bribery, or other dishonest schemes

Whole Life Insurance
Life insurance that provides coverage for the entire life of the policyholder, who pays the same fixed premium throughout his or her life. The policy builds up cash reserves that may be paid out to the policyholder when he or she surrenders or partially surrenders the policy or uses the cash reserves to fund low-interest loans. The annual increase in the cash value of the policy is not taxed. If the policyholder surrenders the policy, a portion of the payment is not taxable. Also called straight life insurance or ordinary life insurance.

Widow
A woman whose husband died while she was married to him and who has not remarried.

Widow's Election
See: elective share

Widower
A man whose wife died while he was married to her and and who has not remarried.

Wildcard Exemption
An exemption that allows a debtor to apply a certain dollar amount to any type of property to make it -- or more of it -- exempt.

Will
A document in which the will maker specifies who is to receive his or her property at death and names an executor. You can also use your will to name a guardian for your young children. To be valid, awill must be signed by the person who made it (called the testator), dated, and witnessed by two people. In some states the witnesses must be disinterested. A will totally in the handwriting of the testator, signed and dated (a "holographic will") but without witnesses, is valid in about half of the states.

Will Contest
A lawsuit challenging the validity of a will or some of its terms after the person who made the will has died. Will contests are quite rare. There are just a few legal grounds for challenging a will. The most common are undue influence by someone close to the deceased person, the deceased person's lack of capacity (understanding) when the will was signed, improper execution (signing and witnessing) of the will, or fraud (forgery, for example). (See also: no-contest clause)

Willful
Intentional, conscious, and intended to achieve a particular result.

Willful Tort
A harmful act that is committed in an intentional and conscious way. For example, if your neighbor builds an ugly new fence and you intentionally mow it down with your truck, that's a willful tort. But carelessly backing into the fence as you pull out of your driveway is not willful, though it's still a tort. Compare: negligence

Winding Up
1) The process of liquidating or closing down a corporation, limited liability company, or partnership. Typically this involves paying off expenses and creditors, settling accounts, and collecting and distributing (to shareholders and owners) whatever assets then remain. 2) With respect to an estate or trust, gathering assets, paying debts, and distributing property to those entitled to inherit it. (See also: personal representative)

Winding Up A Corporation
See: dissolution of corporation

Wiretap
Using an electronic device to listen to or record another's telephone (or electronic) communications.

Wiretapping
Eavesdropping on private conversations by connecting listening equipment to a telephone line. To be legal, wiretapping must be authorized by a search warrant or court order.

With Prejudice
A final and binding decision by a judge about a legal matter that prevents further pursuit of the same matter in any court. When judges make such a decision, they dismiss the matter "with prejudice." The parties may also agree to dismiss a claim with prejudice. (See also: jurisdiction)

Withdrawal
In criminal law, leaving a conspiracy to commit a crime before the actual crime is committed. If the withdrawal is before any overt act, the withdrawing person may escape prosecution. (See also: overt act)

Withdrawal Of A Corporation
See: dissolution of corporation

Withholding
The practice of holding back a portion of money from an employee's paycheck to pay Social Security, Medicare, and income taxes.

Witness
A person who testifies under oath at a deposition or trial, providing firsthand or expert evidence. The term also refers to someone who watches another person sign a document and then adds his or her name to confirm (called "attesting") that the signature is genuine.

Witness Stand
A chair at the end of the judge's bench, on the jury box side, where a witness sits and gives testimony after being sworn to tell the truth. When called to testify, the witness "takes the stand." Most witness stands are equipped with a microphone so that everyone can hear the testimony.

Witnesseth
Legal jargon for "to take notice of," used in phrases such as "On this day I do hereby witnesseth the signing of this document."

Wobbler
A crime that can be either a misdemeanor (a conviction punishable by a small amount of jail time, typically one year or less) or a felony (a conviction punishable by time in state prison). Wobblers can be charged either way, and depending on the law of their state, judges may have the discretion to reduce a felony conviction in a wobbler case to a misdemeanor.

Woodson V. North Carolina (1976)
A U.S. Supreme Court case in which a mandatory death penalty for first degree murder was ruled unconstitutional because a defendant has the right to individual consideration of the facts in the case when determining the penalty.

Words Of Art
Terms used by people who specialize in a particular occupation and understood by other such specialists.

Words Of Procreation
Language in a will or deed, used to transfer property to a person and that person's descendants only. Typically, the words take the form "to A, and the heirs of his body," where A is the person inheriting the property.

Work Credits
To receive any kind of Social Security benefit -- retirement, disability, dependents, or survivors -- the person on whose record the benefit is to be calculated must have accumulated enough work credits. A person can earn up to four work credits per year, and anyone who works full time, even at a very low-paying job, easily accumulates them. Ask the Social Security Administration for a copy of your Social Security Statement to see how many work credits you have accumulated.

Work For Hire
See: work made for hire

Work Made For Hire
Under copyright law, a work created by an employee within the scope of employment, or a commissioned work that falls within certain categories and is the subject of a written agreement. When a work is made for hire, the hiring party is considered the author and owner, not the person who creates the work. This status -- that is, whether a work is made for hire -- affects the length of copyright protection and termination rights.

Work Permit
See: Employment Authorization Document (EAD)

Work Product
The writings, notes, memoranda, reports on conversations with the client or witness, research, and confidential materials which an attorney has developed while representing a client, particularly in preparation for trial. A work product may not be demanded or subpenaed by the opposing party because it reflects the confidential strategy, tactics, and theories to be employed by the attorney.

Worker Adjustment And Retraining Notification Act (Warn)
A federal law that requires employers with at least 100 employees to give workers some advance notice of an impending plant closing or mass layoff that will result in job loss or more than a 50% hours cut for a certain number or percentage of employees. (See also: mass layoff)

Workers' Compensation
A program that provides medical care and replacement income to employees who are injured or become ill due to their jobs. Financial benefits may also extend to the survivors of workers who are killed on the job. In most circumstances, workers' compensation pays relatively modest amounts and prevents the worker or survivors from suing the employer for the injuries or death.

Workers' Compensation Acts
State statutes that 1) require employers to purchase insurance to protect their workers and 2) establish the liability of employers for injuries to workers while on the job or illnesses due to the employment. Workers' compensation is not based on the negligence of the employer; benefits are granted regardless of fault and include medical coverage, a percentage of lost wages, costs of retraining, and compensation for any permanent injury. Coverage does not include general damages for pain and suffering.

Workmen's Compensation
See: workers' compensation

Workout
An arrangement negotiated between a debtor and creditor as a way to take care of a debt, by paying it off or through loan forgiveness. Workouts are often created to avoid bankruptcy or foreclosure proceedings.

World Court
The International Court of Justice, a judicial tribunal established by the United Nations to hear disputes submitted by nations and to issue advisory opinions upon request of a United Nations organ, such as the General Assembly or Security Council. The World Court has 15 judges and sits in The Hague (Netherlands).

Writ
A written order from a judge requiring specific action by the person or entity to whom the writ is directed. Writs can be directed to other, lower court judges (writ of mandamus); to prison officials (writ of habeas corpus); and others.

Writ Of Attachment
A court order directing a sheriff (or other law enforcement officer) to seize property of a defendant that will satisfy a judgment against that person.

Writ Of Coram Nobis
(kor-m-noh-bis) A Latin term that describes a request to a judge to reopen and reconsider a matter that has already been decided. The basis for the request is a claim that the decision is based on a mistake of fact, which can now be rectified.

Writ Of Execution
A court order to a sheriff to enforce a judgment, by seizing real or personal property of a judgment debtor, in order to obtain funds to pay the winning plaintiff the judgment amount.

Writ Of Mandate (Mandamus)
See: mandamus

Writ Of Prohibition
An appellate court's written order to prohibit a lower court from acting because it does not have jurisdiction to do so.

Write-Off
A tax-deductible expense, usually referring to depreciating the cost of an asset used in business or taking a Section179 expense for that asset.

Wrongful Death
A death caused by the wrongful act of another, either accidentally or intentionally. A claim for wrongful death is made by a family member of a deceased person to obtain compensation for having to live without that person. The compensation is intended to cover the earnings and the emotional comfort and support the deceased person would have provided.

Wrongful Termination
A legal claim that an employee has been fired for an illegal reason, such as discrimination, breach of contract, or in violation of public policy. (See also: wrongful termination in violation of public policy)

Wrongful Termination In Violation Of Public Policy
A legal claim that an employee has been illegally fired for reasons that most people would find morally or ethically repugnant. In many states, for example, an employee can sue for wrongful termination in violation of public policy after being fired for (1) exercising a legal right, such as voting, (2) refusing to do something illegal, such as submitting false tax returns or lying on reports the employer is required to submit to the government, or (3) reporting illegal conduct.