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LEGAL TERMS

LIEN

The right of a secured creditor to grab a specific item of property if you don't pay a debt. Liens you agree to are called security interests, and include mortg... (more...)
The right of a secured creditor to grab a specific item of property if you don't pay a debt. Liens you agree to are called security interests, and include mortgages, home equity loans, car loans and personal loans for which you pledge property to guarantee repayment. Liens created without your consent are called nonconsensual liens, and include judgment liens (liens filed by a creditor who has sued you and obtained a judgment), tax liens and mechanics liens (liens filed by a contractor who worked on your house but wasn't paid).

DEFINED CONTRIBUTION PLAN

A type of pension plan that does not guarantee any particular pension amount upon retirement. Instead, the employer pays into the pension fund a certain amount ... (more...)
A type of pension plan that does not guarantee any particular pension amount upon retirement. Instead, the employer pays into the pension fund a certain amount every month, or every year, for each employee. The employer usually pays a fixed percentage of an employee's wages or salary, although sometimes the amount is a fraction of the company's profits, with the size of each employee's pension share depending on the amount of wage or salary. Upon retirement, each employee's pension is determined by how much was contributed to the fund on behalf of that employee over the years, plus whatever earnings that money has accumulated as part of the investments of the entire pension fund.

CHAPTER 7 BANKRUPTCY

The most familiar type of bankruptcy, in which many or all of your debts are wiped out completely in exchange for giving up your nonexempt property. Chapter 7 b... (more...)
The most familiar type of bankruptcy, in which many or all of your debts are wiped out completely in exchange for giving up your nonexempt property. Chapter 7 bankruptcy takes from three to six months, costs about $200, and commonly requires only one trip to the courthouse.

DEBIT CARD

A card issued by a bank that combines the functions of an ATM card and checks. A debit card can be used to withdraw cash at a bank like an ATM card, and it can ... (more...)
A card issued by a bank that combines the functions of an ATM card and checks. A debit card can be used to withdraw cash at a bank like an ATM card, and it can also be used at stores to pay for goods and services in place of a check. Unlike a credit card, a debit card automatically withdraws money from your checking account at the time of the transaction. Debit cards are regulated by the Electronic Funds Transfer Act.

SETOFF

A claim made by someone who allegedly owes money, that the amount should be reduced because the other person owes him money. This is often raised in a countercl... (more...)
A claim made by someone who allegedly owes money, that the amount should be reduced because the other person owes him money. This is often raised in a counterclaim filed by a defendant in a lawsuit. Banks may try to exercise a setoff by taking money out of a deposit account to satisfy past due payments on a loan or credit card bill. Such an act is illegal under most circumstances.

UNDUE HARDSHIP

The circumstances in which a debtor may discharge a student loan in bankruptcy. For example, a debtor who has no income and little chance of earning enough in t... (more...)
The circumstances in which a debtor may discharge a student loan in bankruptcy. For example, a debtor who has no income and little chance of earning enough in the future to pay off the loan may be able to show that repayment would be an undue hardship.

SOLE PROPRIETORSHIP

A business owned and managed by one person (or for tax purposes, a husband and wife). For IRS purposes, a sole proprietor and her business are one tax entity, m... (more...)
A business owned and managed by one person (or for tax purposes, a husband and wife). For IRS purposes, a sole proprietor and her business are one tax entity, meaning that business profits are reported and taxed on the owner's personal tax return. Setting up a sole proprietorship is cheap and easy since no legal formation documents need be filed with any governmental agency (although tax registration and other permit and license requirements may still apply). Once you file a fictitious name statement (assuming you don't use your own name) and obtain any required basic tax permits and business licenses, you'll be in business. The main downside of a sole proprietorship is that its owner is personally liable for all business debts.

FCBA

See Fair Credit Billing Act.

DISCHARGEABLE DEBTS

Debts that can be erased by going through bankruptcy. Most debts incurred prior to declaring bankruptcy are dischargeable, including back rent, credit card bill... (more...)
Debts that can be erased by going through bankruptcy. Most debts incurred prior to declaring bankruptcy are dischargeable, including back rent, credit card bills and medical bills. Compare nondischargeable debts.