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I am trying to translate the German word "verfügen" or "Verfügung" in its legal sense into English. In dictionaries, I only find the translation of "to dispose" or "disposition", as in the "power of disposition", but this just doesn't seem right to me.

I understand "to dispose of" basically to mean "to get rid of something"

What "verfügen" basically means is that you have a certain power over someone or something. Usually things. If I can "verfügen" over your assets, I can for instance buy or sell them as if I owned them - but ownership has not been transferred, I just have been granted the power (e.g. through a formal power of attorney).

Any thoughts?

  • Disposal in this sense means more like selling, transferring or giving away something. – Spagirl Jul 8 at 10:33
  • Sounds like financial guardianship to me. Are you looking for a verb for controlling the financial assets, or for a noun for the conservator? – Boondoggle Jul 8 at 20:19
  • 'guardian' is good if ability to sell etc has been taken away at least temporarily from A and given to B, while A retains some benefits like possession and use, this is commonly used for a person legally judged incompetent (e.g. senile) or bankrupt (although 'trustee' is also common for bankrupt). If A still has the power but gives it to B in addition, I'd use 'agent'.although that's less specific – dave_thompson_085 Jul 9 at 3:35
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The answer you already found is the most accurate imo.

You have the power of disposal (or power of disposition) over the assets etc.

power of disposal — An expression used in reference to the power of one other than the owner of property to dispose of it by will. See power of appointment; power of sale …
Ballentine's law dictionary

Dispose doesn't just mean to get rid of something. In ordinary language, too, if you have something at your disposal, it means you can do as you please with it -- in the sense of controlling. Disposal -- sense 4. from Dictionary

power or right to dispose of a thing; control: left at his disposal.

dispose (entry 5 from Dictionary)

to arrange or decide matters: to do as God disposes.

Linguee is a good translator site for German-English. You can find lots of translations in context.

Here's a sample translation of the verb 'verfügen' used in the sense you are looking for. From Deutche Bank.

[...] regarding the SG Postbank Shares, and (iv) SG will be free to dispose of the SG Postbank Shares at is own discretion at any time.

[...] Weisungsrechte gegenüber SG zustehen und (iv) SG nach eigenem Belieben jederzeit über die SG-Postbank-Aktien verfügen kann.

Or here from wintershall.mobi:

[...] buy, sell, exchange or otherwise dispose of, or issue, or any solicitation of any offer to sell or issue, exchange or otherwise dispose of, buy or subscribe for, any securities, [...]

[...] Kauf, den Verkauf, den Tausch, die Zeichnung oder eine anderweitige Verfügung von Wertpapieren und stellt mit Bezug auf solche Wertpapiere auch keine investitionsbezogene, [...]

Linguee also introduces authority to dispose of as the right of disposal.

In sum you could use power of disposal, power of disposition, right of disposal/disposition or authority to dispose of and as a verb dispose (of).


*Edit. In general I understand your wariness of translating mistakes getting spread by mistranslation online, but in this case I figure it's the correct English usage. If you google e.g "right of disposal" you will find a lot of non-translated English entries using it in 'natural' contexts. Here's one:

Sale of Goods Act 1979 [England]

  1. Reservation of right of disposal 113

(1) Where there is a contract for the sale of specific goods or where goods are subsequently appropriated to the contract, the seller may, by the terms of the contract or appropriation, reserve the right of disposal of the goods until certain conditions are fulfilled; and in such a case, notwithstanding the delivery of the goods to the buyer, or to the carrier or other bailee or custodier for the purpose of transmission to the buyer, the property in the goods does not pass to the buyer until the conditions imposed by the seller are fulfilled.

  • Thank you. You may be correct. But while Linguee has been really helpful in this project, I'm not trusting these answers 100% yet. They give these sample translations but they're all from websites of institutions based in Germany. And I am worried that the person writing these translations was in the same spot I was - translating a legal document written in German into English. – Mike S Jul 8 at 15:02
  • Some non-translated 'natural' samples here. I hope this answer is right since I've used it in my own legal translations.. – S Conroy Jul 8 at 15:45
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Executor Lexico/Oxford:

1 A person or institution appointed by a testator to carry out the terms of their will.

2 A person who produces something or puts something into effect.

Trustee Lexico/Oxford:

An individual person or member of a board given control or powers of administration of property in trust with a legal obligation to administer it solely for the purposes specified.

  • I can for instance buy or sell them as if I owned them - but ownership has not been transferred - "In most circumstances, the executor is the representative of the estate for all purposes, and has the ability to sue or be sued on behalf of the estate. The executor holds legal title to the estate property, but may not use the title or property for their own benefit, unless permitted by the terms of the will." – Mazura Jul 8 at 23:59
  • This relationship is between living persons, not the estate of a deceased person. I believe executor is out. – Mike S Jul 9 at 6:58
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Power of Attorney Holder. "Power of Attorney" or "letter of attorney" is a written authorization to represent or act on another's behalf in private affairs, business, or some other legal matter. The person authorizing the other to act is the principal, grantor, or donor (of the power)

  • I agree that this is the principle at work here. But the power of attorney is the legal construct that transfers the power from the principal to the agent (or attorney). What I am looking for is more a general term - ideally an active verb - that describes what the agent can do with that power. In German, as described in my original question, there is this catch-all verb "verfügen" which covers this. I feel like the answers thus far mostly require some kind of passive construction (the agent is empowered / has been granted a PoA / a proxy to do xyz). -- maybe that is "to dispose over" :) – Mike S Jul 8 at 14:58
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Proxy

proxy

1.1 A person authorized to act on behalf of another.

‘The letter was handed over by Peter Brown, himself an accountant and auditor, who was attending the meeting as a proxy on behalf of a shareholder.’

This is the first word that I thought of when I read your question. User353939 is also correct with "power of attorney" (which you also mentioned in the question), but that is a strictly legal term.

"Proxy" is slightly looser in that it can refer to formally (legally) granted authorization, but it can also refer to informally being granted authorization (e.g. an informal family matter where your aunt speaks for both her and her husband)

Note that you can also use "proxy" to refer to the authorization rather than the authorized person:

  1. The authority to represent someone else, especially in voting.

It can also refer to the document which grants authorization:

1.2. A document authorizing a person to vote on another's behalf.

So you can really use "proxy" in every way you want.

I am Joe's proxy.

I have Joe's proxy.

Joe signed this proxy so that I can manage his assets on his behalf.

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From some of your comments, and parts of the (mechanical) translation of German Wikipedia entry for Verfügung, including (emphasis mine):

In civil law , the decree designates direct action on an existing right. Forms of the order are the transfer, the burden, the cancellation and the substantive change of a right.

  • A charge exists if a right in rem in favor of another is restricted, for example the order of a mortgage in accordance with § 1191 BGB , if this gives a third party the right to satisfy himself by enforcement in the property.

then one possible use could be lein. This is, for example, what a mortgage-lender will hold over your property: if you fail to pay the mortgage, they can forcibly sell the property to recover the debt.

lien (lēn, lē′ən)

n. Law

  1. A claim upon a part of another's property that arises because of an unpaid debt related to that property and that operates as an encumbrance on the property until the debt is satisfied.

  2. The right to hold another's property as security for a debt owed.

Source: The Free Dictionary

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