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What is Legal Fiction?

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Legal fiction is an assumption that is technically untrue or unknown that is used to guide legal decisions. They derive their legitimacy from tradition and precedent as opposed to the word of the law. Generally speaking, the term is used without negative connotations as legal fiction include rules that greatly simplify legal interpretations. The following are illustrative examples.


In many jurisdictions, adopted parents are viewed as parents in every sense under the law. This is considered a legal fiction.

Corporate Personhood

The concept of treating corporations as persons under the law dates back to Ancient Rome. This enables firms to maintain their own debt and commitments that don't extend to investors. Corporate personhood enables investment to flow freely as few would invest in stocks if they were responsible for debts beyond the value of their investment. It is possible for courts to disregard corporate personhood if it is used as a sham to break the law. This is known as "piercing the corporate veil."

Doctrine of Survival

If two people die at the same time or unknown times, the oldest is assumed to have died first.
Overview: Legal Fiction
An assumption that is technically untrue or unknown that is used to guide legal decisions.
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