The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Legal entity

A legal entity or artificial person is a legal construct with legal rights or duties such as the legal capacity to enter into contracts and sue or be sued. It is an entity -- usually an organization such as a corporation or a government -- ultimately composed of natural persons that the law treats for some purposes as if it were a person, distinct from the natural persons of which it is composed; the "legal personality" of an artificial person, including its rights, duties, obligations and actions, is separate from any of the other artificial or natural persons which compose it. Thus, a legal liability of the legal entity is not necessarily a legal liability of any of its natural persons. For example, a properly executed contract in writing on behalf of a legal entity only affects the rights and duties of the legal entity; it does not affect the personal rights and duties of a natural person who executes the contract on behalf of the legal entity. However, a legal entity only operates in lieu of its natural persons. Thus, for example, a legal obligation involving a tort that a corporate officer incurs while acting in his capacity as an agent for the corporation may be an obligation both of the officer personally and of the corporation.

A legal entity exists wherever the law recognizes, as a matter of policy, the person of any entity, regardless of whether it is naturally considered to be a person. Thus, a legal person is distinguished from a natural person.

Legal entities are sometimes referred to by several other names such as "paper people" due to their legal status of having many of the same rights and obligations as natural persons.

There are some legal possibilities that are available only to natural persons, not to legal entities; for example a legal entity cannot marry, vote, or be elected President.

Legal entities include:

Last updated: 05-13-2005 04:31:15
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04