No need to get lost in legal language. The following are the meanings of a few of the legal terms that appear on this web site. If you need a more comprehensive list of easily understood legal definitions, we recommend this excellent legal dictionary, compiled by Mr. Lloyd Duhaime, an experienced lawyer who practises in Victoria, British Columbia.

Collaborative family practice: a no-court alternative to the traditional adversarial system for accomplishing a divorce or separation with dignity and respect. In a collaborative process, husbands, wives, their lawyers, and other professionals working with the family, agree to resolve all issues of the case without going through contentious and costly court proceedings. They make a binding commitment to craft a mutually acceptable agreement based on thoughtful decisions aimed at minimizing distress and harm to the entire family. Many of the principles of collaborative practice can be applicable in other, non-family situations where a positive, win-win outcome is desired by all parties.

Estate: all the possessions that belonged to a person who has died and are subject to probate and distribution to heirs and beneficiaries. If the beneficiary of a will is a child or is physically or mentally incapable of managing his or her own affairs, administration of an estate may be conducted by a guardian or conservator appointed by the court.

Probate: certification that a will has been proven to be valid and has been registered with the court. This gives the executor authority to legally execute the will. A court with the power to ratify wills is called a probate court.

Power of attorney: a signed document by which one person gives to another the power to act on the signer’s behalf in matters relating to property, documents, contracts, financial affairs, and other activities. A power of attorney may be general, covering all activities, or special, being limited to specific matters, such as selling a particular piece of real estate, handling certain bank accounts or executing a limited partnership agreement. A power of attorney may be granted for a fixed period, or may remain in effect until ended by written cancellation.

Real estate law: the area of legal practice that deals with land along with any buildings or items that may be attached to the land. Real estate law deals with matters relating to land ownership, tenancy, easements, and the registration and migration of titles.

Trust: property given by an individual to a trusted party or trustee, for the benefit of another person known as the beneficiary. The trustee manages and administers the property and all the profits go to the beneficiary. The trustee’s responsibilities are sometimes described as “fiduciary”. A will is a form of trust but a trust can also be formed during the lifetime of the person who establishes it. In that case it is called a living trust.

Will: a written document directing how the estate of the person who signed it (the testator) is to be administered and distributed when he or she dies. A will usually names an executor to manage the estate and may specify other instructions, relating to matters such as funeral and/or burial arrangements or the naming of guardians for minor children. If the estate is substantial and/or includes real estate, then the will must be probated. A written alteration or addition to a will is called a "codicil" and must be signed, dated and witnessed just as is a will, and must refer to the original will it amends.

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