How To Understand Common Terms of Property Law

Have you ever seen a legal document or perhaps heard a lawyer in a court hearing, and wished you could have gotten into law school?  Legal terms are everywhere and unless you get yourself acquainted with them, especially property law terms, the world will be a strange place for you to live. This article isn’t going to be a crash course on law but will introduce you to the most common terms used in property law today.

Property law governs the human acts of buying or selling personal and real estate properties. Thus, a person wanting to buy or sell his property ought to know these words to sound as knowledgeable and foolproof as possible.

  • Amortization – Paying off a loan by regular installments.
  • Appraisal – An estimate, often conservative, of the worth of the property based on market value.
  • Contract – a legal written agreement that is binding when signed.
  • Deed – The document that conveys the title from one owner to another.
  • Affidavit – A document, sworn to and signed before a notary or other court officer, containing a specific statement.
  • Assets – (1) The property of a deceased person subject to the payment of their debts and gifts. (2) The property in a trust account.
  • Beneficiary – A person or institution named to receive property or property benefits.
  • Bona Fide (adj.) – In good faith; as, a bona fide transaction.
  • Escheat – Reversion of property to the state when a person dies without a will and with no legal heirs.
  • Gift – A transfer or conveyance of property made volunatrily without consideration or for less than full and adequate consideration based on fair market value.
  • Personal Property – Tangible property such as clothing, furniture and automobiles; and intangible property such as stocks, bonds, life insurance and bank accounts.
  • Tenancy-in-Common – A type of property ownership in which two or more persons hold undivided interests in the same land with no right of survivorship. However, each tenant-in common can sell or divide his share.
  • Earnest Money – Deposit money paid by the buyer to indicate that he is serious about wanting to buy. The amount may vary.
  • Easement Rights – The right an owner gives a person or company to use the property in a specified way. For example, a neighbor may be given the right to use a driveway.
  • Mortgage – The written agreement pledging property to a creditor for a loan.
  • Mortgagee –The person to whom the property is mortgaged and who has loaned the money.
  • Mortgagor – The person who makes the pledge and is receiving the money.
  • Breach of Trust – Violation of a duty of a trustee to a beneficiary.
  • Burden of Proof – The duty of proving a position taken in a court of law. Failure in the performance of that duty calls for judgment against the person on whom the duty stays.
  • Capital Gains (and Losses) – The difference between purchase price and selling price in the sale of assets. The computation is used primarily in tax computations.


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