Legal Dictionary F

Fair market value

A hypothetical number representing the most probable price that would be paid for a property by average, informed purchasers.

Fee simple

A term referring to the ownership of property and meaning the most extensive tenure allowed under the feudal system, allowing the tenant to sell or convey by will or to transfer to an heir if the owner dies intestate. In modern law, almost all land is held in fee simple and this is as close as one can get to absolute ownership in common law.

Fee tai

A form of tenure under the feudal system which allowed property to be transferred to a lineal descendant only. In default of lineal descendants upon the death of the tenant, the land reverted back to the lord.


Any crime for which the punishment is prison for more than a year, or death. Crimes of less gravity are called misdemeanors (which see).

Feudal system

The social structure existing throughout much of Europe between 800 and 1400 C.E., consisting of a multi-level hierarchy of lords (who held land granted under tenure from the king), and their tenants (also called “vassals”).Tenants held land from the lord in exchange for loyalty and goods or services, such as military assistance, money, or goods in kind. In exchange, the tenant would be protected from attack.


A fiduciary is person, synonymous to a trustee, who has rights and powers which would normally belong to another person and strict obligations in carrying out those rights. For instance, the fiduciary must exercise those rights only for the benefit of the beneficiary; must not allow any conflict of interest to affect their duties towards the beneficiary; and must exercise a high standard of care in protecting or promoting the interests of the beneficiary. Fiduciary responsibilities also exist for persons other than trustees, such as between lawyer and client or principal and agent.

Fieri facias

A writ of fieri facias is executed after a judgment is entered against an individual to pay a debt. It commands a sheriff or other officer of the court to take property from the person who lost the law suit and sell enough to pay the debt owed by the judgment.

Force majeure

French for an act of God (which see). An inevitable, unpredictable act of nature, not dependent on an act of man. Used in insurance contracts to refer to acts of nature such as earthquakes or lightning.


The technical meaning of the word is to wipe out a right of redemption on a property. A foreclosure generally takes place when payment on a mortgage is not made. Since a borrower retains an equitable right of redemption on property (meaning he can make all back payments and retain ownership) even though there have been no present payments, it is necessary to clear the title of this potential. To do this, a lender goes to court, demonstrates the default, and requests that a date be set where the entire amount becomes payable. After which, in the absence of payment, the lender is automatically relieved of the requirement to redeem the property back to the borrower; the debtor’s right of redemption is said to be forever barred and foreclosed. This cancels all rights a borrower would have in the property and the property then belongs entirely to the lender, who is then free to possess or sell the property. The word is frequently used to refer generally to the lender’s actions of repossessing and selling a property for default in mortgage payments.


Deliberate, deceitful conduct designed to manipulate another person to give something of value by (1) lying; (2) repeating something that is or ought to have been known by the fraudulent party as false or suspect; or (3) concealing a fact from the other party which may have saved that party from being cheated. The existence of fraud will cause a court to void a contract and can give rise to criminal liability.


A special right granting the full use of real estate for an indeterminate time. It differs from leasehold (which see), which allows possession for a limited time. There are varieties of freehold such as fee simple and fee tail.


One who owns freehold property rights (i.e. in a piece of real estate; either land or a building).


One who runs away to avoid arrest, prosecution or imprisonment. Many extradition laws also call the suspect a “fugitive” although, in that context, it does not necessarily mean that the suspect was trying to hide in the country from which extradition is being sought.

Functus officio

Latin: an officer or agency whose mandate has expired either because of the arrival of an expiry date or because an agency has accomplished the purpose for which it was created.


Goods comprised of many identical parts such as a bushel of grain or a barrel of apples or oil, which can be easily replaced by other, identical goods. Sale of items by weight or number is good evidence that they are fungible.

Furiosi nulla voluntas est

A Latin expression meaning that mentally impaired persons cannot validly sign a will.