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LEGAL TERMS

CREDIT REPORT

An account of your credit history, prepared by a credit bureau. A credit report will contain both credit history, such as what you owe to whom and whether you m... (more...)
An account of your credit history, prepared by a credit bureau. A credit report will contain both credit history, such as what you owe to whom and whether you make the payments on time, as well as personal history, such as your former addresses, employment record and lawsuits in which you have been involved. An estimated 50% of all credit reports contain errors, such as accounts that don't belong to you, an incorrect account status or information reported that is older than seven years (ten years in the case of a bankruptcy).

TRUTH IN LENDING ACT (TILA)

A federal law that requires credit and charge card companies to disclose interest rates and other information about an account. It also requires lenders to disc... (more...)
A federal law that requires credit and charge card companies to disclose interest rates and other information about an account. It also requires lenders to disclose the terms of a loan, including the total amount of the loan, the annual interest rate and the number, amount and due dates of all payments necessary to repay the loan. The TILA requires additional disclosures and places many restrictions on mortgages.

CREDIT COUNSELING

Counseling that explores the possibility of repaying debts outside of bankruptcy and educates the debtor about credit, budgeting, and financial management. Unde... (more...)
Counseling that explores the possibility of repaying debts outside of bankruptcy and educates the debtor about credit, budgeting, and financial management. Under the new bankruptcy law, a debtor must undergo credit counseling with an approved provider before filing for bankruptcy.

GENERAL PARTNER

A person who joins with at least one other to own and operate a business for profit -- and who (unlike a corporation's owners), is personally liable for all the... (more...)
A person who joins with at least one other to own and operate a business for profit -- and who (unlike a corporation's owners), is personally liable for all the business's debts and obligations. A general partner's actions can legally bind the entire business. See also partnership, limited partnership.

CHAPTER 13 PLAN

A document filed in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy in which the debtor shows how all of his or her disposable income will be used over a three- to five-year period to ... (more...)
A document filed in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy in which the debtor shows how all of his or her disposable income will be used over a three- to five-year period to pay all mandatory debts -- for example, back child support, taxes, and mortgage arrearages -- as well as some or all unsecured, nonpriority debts, such as medical and credit card bills.

TRADE NAME

The official name of a business, the one it uses on its letterhead and bank account when not dealing with consumers.

MEANS TEST

A formula that uses predefined income and expense categories to determine whether a debtor whose current monthly income is higher than the median family income ... (more...)
A formula that uses predefined income and expense categories to determine whether a debtor whose current monthly income is higher than the median family income for his or her state should be allowed to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

TRADE DRESS

The distinctive packaging or design of a product that promotes the product and distinguishes it from other products in the marketplace -- for example, the shape... (more...)
The distinctive packaging or design of a product that promotes the product and distinguishes it from other products in the marketplace -- for example, the shape of Frangelico liqueur bottles. Trade dress can be protected under trademark law if a showing can be made that the average consumer would likely be confused as to product origin if another product were allowed to appear in similar dress.

INTEREST

A commission you pay a bank or other creditor for lending you money or extending you credit. An interest rate represents the annual percentage that is added to ... (more...)
A commission you pay a bank or other creditor for lending you money or extending you credit. An interest rate represents the annual percentage that is added to your balance. This means that if your loan or credit line has an interest rate of 8%, the holder adds 8% to the balance each year. More specifically, interest is calculated and added to your loan or credit line through a process called compounding. If interest is compounded daily, the balance will rise by 1/365th of 8% each day. If interest is compounded monthly, the balance will rise 1/12th of 8% at the start of each month.