Glossary of Terms for Criminal, Civil & Probate Courts
This "Glossary of Terms" is not intended to be a definitive legal
definition of terms, but, is merely provided to assist the public
with general understanding of court terminology.
If you have a need for definitive legal definitions of these or any
other legal terms, you should seek the services of an attorney.
A B C D E F G
H I J K
L M N O P
Q R S T U V W X Y
Abstract of Title - A condensed history of the title to land.
Acknowledgment - Formal declaration before authorized official, be
person who executed the instrument, that it is his free act and
deed. The certificate of the officer on such instrument that is has
been so acknowledged.
Addendum - A thing that is added or to be added. Addendums to
documents may be copies.
Administrative Order - An order by the chief judge governing a
function of the Court.
Affiant - A person making an affidavit.
Affidavit - A written or printed declaration or statement of the
facts made voluntarily, and confirmed by the oath or affirmation of
the party making it, taken before a person having the authority to
administer such oath or affirmation.
Affirmative Defenses - The offering of new evidence in an attempt to
avoid or mitigate judgment.
Affix - Attach securely.
Agreement for Deed - Transfer of interest in real property by an
agreement, which when recorded, is treated like a deed and a
mortgage when determining the tax stamps due. Documentary Stamp Tax
at .70 cents per $100.00 is due on the total sales price.
Documentary Stamp Tax at .35 cents per $100.00 and Intangible Tax at
.20 cents per $100.00 is due on the total sales price minus the down
payment. Upon repayment of the loan, the seller will give the buyer
a deed and when that deed is recorded, there are no tax stamps due
because they were paid previously on the "Agreement".
A/K/A - Also known as.
Alias - When used in connection with a description of a person, it
indicates that he/she has used or been known by another name.
Alias process - A second or further writ, summons, execution or
subpoena, used when the first or earlier process has for any reason
failed to accomplish its purpose.
Alias subpoena - One issued after the first has been returned
without having accomplished its purpose.
Alias summons - A summons issued when original has not produced its
effect because defective in form or manner of service, and when
issued, supersedes the first writ.
Alimony - The money allowance one spouse must pay another by order
of a court during or after a divorce action.
Amend - To change a complaint, motion, order, etc., that has already
Amendment - Alteration of a law or resolution.
Amicus Curiae - A Latin term which means "friend of the court"
Ancillary Administration - Administration of an estate other than
where the decedent was domiciled.
Annulment - The voiding of an act (marriage).
Answer - The pleading of a defendant in response to a plaintiff's
Appeal - Criminal - When a party dissatisfied with a decision of
their judge appeals to a higher court to reverse a decision or
Appeal - A request that a case be removed from a lower court to a
higher court in order for the case to be reviewed.
Appellant - The party filing the appeal.
Arraignment - Procedure whereby the accused is brought before the
court to plead to the criminal charge in the indictment or
information. After the charge is read to him, he is asked to plead
"guilty", "not guilty" or "nolocontendere" (no contest).
Attachment, Writ of - A writ instructing the sheriff to seize
property and bring it into the custody of the court.
Authenticated - when referring to copies of documents or judicial
proceedings required to be filed with the court under this code)
shall mean a certified copy or a copy authenticated according to the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
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Bench Warrant - Process issued by the court itself, or "from the
bench", for the attachment or arrest of a person; either in case of
comtempt; where an indictment has been found; for failure to appear
for a court event; or to bring in a witness who does not obey a
Beneficiary - means heir at law, in an intestate estate, and
devisee, in a testate estate. The term "beneficiary" does not apply
to an heir at law, or devisee, after that person's interest in the
estate has been satisfied. In the case of a devise to an existing
trust or trustee, or to a trust or trustee described by will, in the
absence of a conflict of interest of the trust, the trustee is a
beneficiary of the estate. An owner of a beneficial interest in the
trust is a beneficiary of the trust and IS, in the absence of a
conflict of interest of the trust, not a beneficiary of the estate..
Body Attachment, Writ - A writ commanding the sheriff to bring
before the court a person guilty of contempt of court.
Bona Fide - In or with good faith, honestly, openly & sincerely,
without deceit or fraud.
Bond Estreature - Civil - An "Order" signed by a criminal judge
directing the forfeiture of money or property posted as bail.
Bond Estreature - Criminal - A disposition for cases in which a
defendant's failure to appear in court causes the money or property
deposited to secure release on bail not to be returned to the
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Cash Bond - Sum of money posted by a criminal defendant to
insure his presence in court. Used in place of surety bond and real
Caption - The title of a pleading.
Caveat - If an creditor of the estate of a decedent is apprehensive
that an estate, wither testate or intestate, will be administered
without the creditor's knowledge, or if any person other than a
creditor is apprehensive that an estate may be administered, or that
a will may be admitted to probate, without the person's knowledge,
he or she may file a caveat with the court. Upon a probate
proceeding opened, the court will notify that person of the opening.
Certified Copy - A copy of a document that has a certification
stamp, signature of the Clerk of Court and Clerk's Seal verifying
that it is a true and correct copy.
Change of Venue - The movement of a case from one court of another
court that has the same jurisdictional authority but is in a
different geographic location.
Child - includes a person entitled to take as a child under this
code by intestate succession from the parent whose relationship is
involved, and excludes any person who is only a stepchild, a foster
child, a grandchild, or a more remote descendant.
Citation - An order, issued by law enforcement, to appear in court
at a later date. Usually used for minor violations (e.g. traffic
Claims - Liabilities of the decedent, whether arising in contract,
tort, or otherwise, and funeral expenses. The term does not include
expenses of administration or estate, inheritance, succession, or
other death taxes.
Clerk - The clerk or deputy clerk of the court. (ACourt@ means the
circuit court for Probate)
Clerk's Default - When a party against whom affirmative relief is
sought has failed to file or serve any paper in the action, the
party seeking relief may have the clerk enter a default against the
party failing to serve or file such paper.
Codicil - A supplement or addition to a will, not necessarily
disposing of the entire estate but modifying, explaining, or
otherwise qualifying the will in some way.
Complaint - The initial written pleading on the part of the
plaintiff of a civil case.
Consolidation - Criminal - The joining of two or more cases that
pertain to the same cause of action.
Consolidated Case - Civil - Cases within the same jurisdiction
involving one defendant or the same litigants which are consolidated
under one case number and disposed as one unit.
Court - The judge, as in "The court rules in favor of the
plaintiff." Also any official tribunal (court) presided over by a
judge or judges in which legal issues and claims are heard and
determined. In the United States there are essentially two systems:
federal courts and state courts.
Creditor - An individual or entity to which an estate may be
Curator - A person appointed by the court to take charge of the
estate of a decedent until letters are issued.
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Decedent - The person who has died.
Default judgment - An award given to a plaintiff because the
defendant fails to appear or to be represented in his own defense
Defendant - Criminal - The party against whom a charge or violation
Defendant - Civil - A person required to answer a complaint in a
civil case. Also referred to as the respondent.
Deposition - Criminal - A recording of testimony of a witness or of
a party to a legal action.
Deposition - Civil - The testimony of a witness through the question
and answer process, which testimony is taken under oath by a court
Devise - When used as a noun, means a testamentary disposition of
real or personal property and, when used as a verb, means to dispose
of real or personal property by a will. The term includes "gift,"
"give," "bequeath," bequest," and "legacy."
Devisee - A person designated in a will to receive a devise. In the
case of a devise to an existing trust or trustee, or to a trustee of
a trust described by will, the trust or trustee is the devisee. The
beneficiaries of the trust are not devisees.
Discovery - The various legal processes which allow litigants to
discover important facts about an opponent's position in a lawsuit.
Disclaimer - The rejection, refusal, or renunciation of a claim,
power or property.
Dismissed with prejudice - A judgment dismissing a case because the
plaintiff's contentions have not been proved and, furthermore, the
judgment bars the plaintiff from future action on the same issue.
Dismissal without prejudice - A dismissal of a case not based on its
merits and not preventing a future suit on the same issue.
Distributee - means a person who has received estate property from a
personal representative or other fiduciary other than as a creditor
or purchaser. A. testamentary trustee is a distributee only to the
extent of distributed assets or increments to them remaining In the
trustee's hands. A beneficiary of a testamentary trust to whom the
trustee has distributed property received from a personal
representative is a distributee. For purposes of this provision,
testamentary trustee" Includes a trustee to whom assets are
transferred by will, to the extent of the devised assets.
Docket - (1) To make a brief entry of any proceeding in a court of
justice. (2) A formal record, entered in brief, of the proceedings
in a court of justice. (3) A list of cases set to be heard at a
court event at a specified date, time and place, prepared by the
clerks for the use of the court, bar, and criminal justice agencies.
Domicile - A person's usual place of dwelling and shall be
synonymous with "residence."
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Elective Share - A widow's statutory prescribed share.
Emancipation - The independence of a minor from parental control and
independence gives the minor the legal status of an adult.
Eminent Domain - Power of the state to take private property for
public use, providing the state make reasonable compensation for the
Estate - Property of a decedent that is the subject of
Executor - A person named by a testator to carry out the provisions
in the testator's will.
Exempt Property - Estate property which is not subject to probate
proceedings. means the property of a decedent's estate which is
described in s. 732.402.
Extradition - A case filed, usually by the State Attorney's Office,
in which another state wants this state to surrender a criminal for
persecution in the other state.
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Family Administration - Simplified probate proceeding which may
be used if total value of the estate is less than $60,000.
Family Allowance - A portion of a decedent's estate set aside by
statute for a surviving spouse, children, or parents, regardless of
any testamentary disposition or competing claims.
Fiduciary - Another name for an executor or personal representative.
File - means to file with the court or clerk.
Foreclosure - The taking and selling of mortgaged property to
enforce payment of debt which was secured by the property.
Foreign personal representative - means a personal representative of
another state or a foreign country .
Forfeiture - The loss of lands and goods to the State as the
consequence of a crime.
Formal notice - means formal notice under the Florida Probate Rules.
Forthwith - Immediately.
Foreign Guardian - A guardian appointed in another state or country.
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Grand Jury - A group of people summoned and sworn to determine
whether the facts and accusations presented by the prosecutor
warrant an indictment and eventual trial of the accused.
Grantor - One who creates or adds to a trust and includes Asettlor@
or Atrustor@ and a testator who creates or adds to a trust.
Guardian - A person who has been appointed by the court to act on
behalf of a ward's person or property or both.
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Habeas Corpus - Civil - A writ whose object is to bring a person
before a court or judge.
Habeas Corpus - Criminal - A procedure for obtaining a judicial
determination of the legality of an individuals custody.
Heirs - or "heirs at law" means those persons, including the
surviving spouse, who are entitled by law to inherit from another.
Homestead - Property which is set aside for the benefit of specific
family members, and which cannot be transferred by the decedent to a
third party. As long as the homestead does not exceed in area or
value the limits fixed by law, in most states it is exempt from
forced sale for collection of a debt.
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In Camera - "In a room." In Camera proceedings are heard in a
judge's private chambers or in a courtroom which has been cleared of
Incapacitated Person - A person who has been judicially determined
to lack the capacity to manage at least some of the property or to
meet at least some of the essential health and safety requirements
of such person.
Incompetent - A minor or a person adjudicated incompetent.
Indigent - A party who is financially unable to pay for an attorney.
Informal notice - or "notice" means notice under the Florida Probate
Information - An accusation exhibited against a person for some
criminal offense, without an indictment. A written accusation made
by the State Attorney without the intervention of a grand jury.
Interested person - Any person who may reasonably be expected to be
affected by the outcome or the particular proceeding involved. In
any proceeding affecting the estate or the rights of a beneficiary
in "the estate, the personal representative of the estate shall be
deemed to be an interested person. In any proceeding affecting the
expenses of the administration, the trustee of a trust described in
s. 733. 707(3) is an interested person in the administration of the
grantor's estate. The term does not include a beneficiary who has
received distribution. The meaning, as it relates to particular
persons, may vary from time to time and must be detem1med according
to "the particular purpose of, and matter involved in, any
Intestate - Without a will.
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JA - Judicial assistant of a judge. Provides clerical services
to a judge.
Judgment - The final determination by a court of the rights of
disputing parties to a lawsuit.
Jury - A group of people composed of the peers or a cross-section of
the community that are summoned and sworn to decide on the facts in
issue at a trial.
Jury summons - The court shall order the summoning of the persons to
attend the court at the time fixed in the order to form the jury, by
giving personal notice to each of them, or by leaving a written
notice to that effect at his place of residence, with some person of
proper age and discretion, or by mailing such notice by first class
mail, registered mail or certified mail.
Jury trial - A trial in which a group of citizens is empaneled to
determine the issues of fact in a case.
Jurisdiction - The authority of the court to administer justice in a
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Letters - The authority granted by the
court to the personal representative to act on behalf of the estate
of the decedent and refers to what has been known as letters
testamentary and letters of administration.
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Malpractice - Negligent conduct by a professional person
Mandamus - A common law writ from a court used to coerce a public
official to perform duties that he is charged by law with
Mandate - A command, order or direction, written or oral, which the
court is authorized to give and the person is bound to obey.
Mediation - A process in which a neutral third party listens to the
complaints and concerns of all parties to a dispute and then tries
to assist those parties to reach an agreement that resolves those
concerns. The mediator, unlike a judge, has no authority to impose a
decision on the parties.
Memorandum at Law - A written instrument concerning facts and the
applicable law relating to those facts or arguments.
Microfilm - Rolls of film on which old court records are stored.
Minor - A person under 18 years of age whose disabilities have not
been removed by marriage or otherwise.
Mistrial - A trial which cannot stand in law because of lack of
jurisdiction, wrong, drawing of jurors, or disregard of some other
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Non-jury trial - A trial in which
there is no jury and in which a judge determines both the issues of
fact and law in a case.
Nunc Pro Tunc - A Latin phrase which means "now for then".
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Oath - A solemn affirmation to tell the truth.
Other state - Any state of the United States other than Florida and
includes the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico,
and any territory or possession subject to the legislative authority
of the United States.
Order to Show Cause - An "Order" directing a party to appear and
show why some action should not be taken against him.
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Parent - excludes any person who is only a stepparent, foster
parent or grandparent.
Per Stirpes - To distribute a share to a descendant of a deceased
Personal Representative - The fiduciary appointed by the court to
administer the estate and refers to what has been known as an
administrator or executor.
Petit Jury - An ordinary JURY AS OPPOSED TO A Grand Jury.
Petition - A written document filed in the court, initiating the
case and requesting a decision in a matter described therein.
Plaintiff - A person who initiates a court action. Also referred to
as complainant, claimant, or petitioner.
Pleading - A document stating a defendants plea of guilty, not
guilty, or nolo contendere (no contest), filed in a case and made
part of the official court case file.
Plenary Guardian - Full, entire, complete Guardianship.
Preneed Guardian - A person named in a written declaration to serve
the event of the incapacity of the declarant.
Preponderance of Evidence - The persuasive evidence which is
necessary to prove one's case in a civil lawsuit.
Probate of Will - Means all steps necessary to establish the
validity of a will and to admit a will to probate.
Pro Bono - Work or services done or performed by an attorney, free
Property - Both real and personal property or any interest in it and
anything that may be die subject of ownership.
Pro Se - Representing oneself without legal counsel.
Protected Homestead - The property described in s. 4(2)(1), Art. X
of the State Constitution on which at the death of the owner of the
exemption inures to the owner's surviving spouse or heirs under s.
4(b), Art. X of the State constitution. For the purposes of the
code, real property owned as tenants by the entirety is not
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Quash - To set aside.
Quasi Judicial - A term applied to "judicial" acts taken by Agencies
and Authorities that are not really constituted as COURTS of law. As
an example, a ruling handed down by a zoning board is a
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Recusal - When a judge disqualifies himself from the cause by
reason of interest or prejudice.
Redemption - The regaining of property.
Remand - To send back
Remanded - When an appellate judge reverses a decision of a lower
court judge and sends it back to the lower court to be reheard by
that same judge.
Reopened case - A case that has been reported previously as
disposed, but is resubmitted to a court.
Replevin - A personal action brought to recover possession of goods
Rescind - To cancel; revoke; terminate.
Residence - A person's place of dwelling.
Residuary Devise - or Residuary devise - A devise of the assets of
the estate which remain after the provision for any devise which is
to be satisfied by reference to a specific property or type of
property, fund, sum, or statutory amount.
Revocation - The act of withdrawal or recall of some power, making
void a will.
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Security - A security as defined in s. 517.021.
Security interest - A security interest as defined in s. 671.201.
Self-Proved Will - A will in which at least two witnesses took an
oath, included in the will, at the time the will was signed, and in
which both the witnesses' and the decedent's signatures were
notarized by a qualified notary public.
Separation Agreement - An agreement between a husband and wife who
have stopped living together, which agreement may provide for child
support, alimony, child visitation, and distribution of property.
Service of Process - The legal notification of the existence of a
lawsuit to a defendant.
Settlement - The termination of a civil case before trial by the
agreement between or among the parties involved.
Specific Performance - A legal remedy, which if decreed by a court,
forces a party to perform a certain act in a specified way.
Stipulation - An agreement by attorneys on opposite sides of a case
as to any matter pertaining to the proceedings or trial.
Style of case - The parties to a law suit. who vs. who.
Subpoena - A document ordering an individual to appear in court and
Subpoena duces tecum - A subpoena that orders a person to bring
certain documents into court when he answers the subpoena.
Sui Juris - Of full age and capacity.
Summary Administration - Administration used if assets are under
$25,000 or the decedent has been dead for more than 2 years.
Summary judgment - A judgment which is entered in favor of one party
without a trial, as there are no real triable issues of fact.
Summary Reporting system (SRS) - Florida State Courts System uniform
case reporting system, pursuant to Section 25.075(1), Florida
Summons - A court document directing a litigant to answer a lawsuit
or suffer the risk of a default judgment.
Surety - A person who agrees to be responsible for the debt of
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Testate - Having left a will at death.
Transferred - A manner of disposition in which a judicial order
transfers a case from one court to another before hearing or trial.
Trust - An express trust private or charitable with additions to it,
wherever and however created. It also includes a trust created or
determined by a judgment or decree under which the trust is to be
administered in the manner of an express trust. Trust" excludes
other constructive trusts, and it excludes resulting trusts;
conservatorships; custodial arrangements pursuant to the Florida
Uniform Transfers to Minors Act; business trusts providing for
certificates to be issued to beneficiaries; common trust funds; land
trusts under s. 689.05; trusts, created by the form of the account.
or by the deposit agreement at a financial institution voting
trusts; security arrangements. l1guldatlon trusts. trusts for the
primary purpose of paying debts. dividends, interest, salaries,
wages, profits, pensions, or employee benefits of any kind; and any
arrangement under which a person is nominee or
escrowee for another.
Trustee - Person or entity authorized by a trust document to handle
certain property matters on behalf of another.
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UIFSA - Uniform Interstate Enforcement
of Support Act. Chapter 88. Florida Statutes
Venire - The process by which jurors are summoned to try a
Venire listing - The list of jurors summoned to try a case.
Verdict - The decision made by a jury or by a judicial officer
concerning the matters at issue.
Void - No legal force validity.
Voir Dire - The oath taken by the jury panel members to speak the
truth in an examination testing their competence as a juror. The
panel members are considered voir dired upon entering the court
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Waiver - The voluntary relinquishment
of a privilege or a right.
Ward - A person who is under a guardianís charge or protection.
Warrant - A writ or document which authorizes and directs the
performance of a certain act (arrest, search or the payment of
Will - An instrument executed by a person, which disposes of a
personís property on or after his or her death.