You don’t need a law degree to understand some legal terminology, and in fact, there are some basic legal concepts everyone should know. For instance, “power of attorney” is a legal term many people seem to recognize. But what can it be used for and how exactly does it work?
Warren Allen LLP has experience litigating cases in several practice areas, and there are certain legal concepts that are relevant across the board. Here’s an overview of the most relevant and useful legal terms with which you should familiarize yourself.
1. Power of Attorney
A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that grants someone else the ability, or power, to act on your behalf. A power of attorney can be executed for a limited purpose, such as one specific matter, or for a limited period of time. It may also be executed so that your representative has broad authority to act on your behalf for a range of legal matters.
For instance, let’s say you’re closing on a home, but you’re currently living in another city and are unable to attend the closing. You may execute a limited POA giving your spouse or attorney the ability to sign the closing documents on your behalf for that particular matter only.
On the other hand, you may want to grant a trusted friend or family member the long-term ability to act on your behalf in all legal matters. In this instance, you would execute what’s known as a durable POA. A durable POA in Oregon remains in effect indefinitely or until the power is revoked by the principal. In fact, an executed POA in Oregon is considered durable unless the POA expressly states something to the contrary.
A healthcare POA can also be executed if you want to designate someone to make medical decisions on your behalf. Even if you’re in good health, a healthcare POA is something you should consider in the event you become incapacitated and need someone to act on your behalf. For instance, you may want to communicate your feelings about life support to the person you designate as your healthcare POA and have them respect your wishes should you ever be unable to make your own medical decisions.
A retainer refers to the fee that you pay to retain an attorney. An attorney may charge an hourly fee or a flat rate, depending on the legal issue at hand. If you are charged an hourly rate, you more than likely will have to pay the retainer before your attorney begins work on your case. Essentially, this is a good faith payment or a deposit of sorts.
The attorney then places that money in a trust account and accesses the funds as needed for expenses and services rendered. Should you have any money left over once the work is complete, your attorney will refund you the difference between the retainer and the amount of accrued expenses. Likewise, if the retainer does not cover the full amount of expenses, you will likely be responsible for paying the difference.
You may also choose to have an attorney on retainer, which is slightly different. If you have an attorney on retainer, you pay the attorney to be available for a specific period of time to answer questions or provide legal advice about specific matters. For instance, if you are a landlord or management company, you may want to have an attorney on retainer to answer questions about fair housing laws, eviction proceedings, or landlord/tenant disputes.
Liability refers to responsibility for a particular action or outcome. In personal injury law, for example, determining who is liable for an accident essentially means determining who was at fault. If a person is found liable, they will likely have to pay damages to the injured party. In some cases, who is liable isn’t entirely clear-cut, and it may be helpful to have a personal injury attorney acting on your behalf.
If you are found to be the liable party in a legal dispute, you will likely be responsible for paying damages—a monetary amount that is either agreed upon by the involved parties or determined by a court of law. Damages can be either punitive or compensatory.
The latter compensates the person for medical expenses, property damage, loss of income, and the pain and suffering they endured as a result of the injury. Punitive damages, on the other hand, are meant to punish the liable party.
For instance, a judge may award punitive damages on top of compensatory damages in a personal injury lawsuit. Punitive damages are meant to have a deterrent effect on the responsible party so they will refrain from any future reckless or negligent behavior that may have led to the incident in question.
5. With/Without Prejudice
Some legal matters may be settled out of court. But in other instances, you may need to file suit against someone to resolve a dispute. If so, a judge will evaluate both sides of the argument and either allow the case to proceed or dismiss it.
If a judge dismisses a case, it will be dismissed with or without prejudice. If the case is dismissed with prejudice, it means the judge has made a definitive decision to not allow the case to proceed further.
If a judge dismisses a case without prejudice, it means that the suit can be refiled with the court in the future. A judge could dismiss a suit without prejudice if certain revisions need to be made to the original filing or if more information is needed before proceeding.
When a person dies, probate is the process in which the person’s will is evaluated and verified before their property or assets are distributed. The probate process ensures the will is legitimate and that it is honored according to the deceased person’s wishes.
If a person dies without a will, a probate court will decide how the assets should be distributed. This can often be a long and drawn-out process, especially if there’s a debate about who should get what. That’s why it’s all the more important to draft a will before you die.
If you want to learn more about estate planning, Warren Allen LLP can help. From obtaining a power of attorney to drafting a last will and testament, we will provide you with sound legal advice and counsel. If you’re dealing with a complex legal matter, make sure you have an experienced team like Warren Allen LLP by your side.