Act and legal fact – How are they different?

We explain what legal acts and facts are, what differentiates them, their characteristics, how they are classified and examples.

Act and legal fact
A legal act is a type of legal fact that is characterized because it is voluntary.

What are legal acts and facts, and what differentiates them?

In the language of law, we often speak of legal facts and legal acts, two concepts that designate different referents in the order of jurisprudence, and that should be defined separately.

In the first place, a legal fact is any event, phenomenon or action of natural or human origin, which the appropriate legislators consider to generate legal effects or consequences, such as the creation, modification or extinction of rights and obligations.

In other words, a legal fact is everything that can occur and have legal consequences, according to what is typified in any law, norm, custom or ordinance.

Legal facts, therefore, are of an immensely varied nature, and are classified according to their natural and human origin, depending on whether they are the consequence of human conduct or not. Legal acts are a type of legal fact, as we will see shortly. Examples of legal facts are: death, the birth of an individual, a declaration of war, a natural disaster, a health catastrophe.

For its part, legal acts are legal facts too, but always voluntary, which are intended to produce legal consequences in accordance with the Law, whether to create, modify or extinguish rights and obligations.

Therefore, they are always the result of human will and require the presence of three basic elements: one or more subjects that express their will, an object or purpose of the legal act, and a legal relationship that binds them.

In many laws, legal acts are classified according to various criteria, such as:

  • According to its type of action, can be classified as positive and negative. The former consist of carrying out or carrying out an act (carrying out a job, for example), while the latter require its omission or abstention (not approaching a person who has filed a precautionary restraining measure, for example).
  • According to the number of parties involved, can be classified into unilateral and bilateral. In the former, the will of a single party intervenes (such as wills, for example), while in the latter the consent of two or more parties is required (as in purchase-sale contracts, for example).
  • According to its relationship with the lawThey can be classified as formal and non-formal. The former require observance of the law, according to its formalities (such as an employment contract, for example), while the latter do not require any solemnity to be valid (such as an oral agreement between the parties, for example) .
  • According to the distribution of the obligation, can be classified as free and expensive. In the former, the obligation falls on a single party or individual, according to a principle of liberality (as in the case of a donation, for example), while in the latter the obligations are reciprocal and both subjects are obligated at the same time ( as in the case of a rental agreement, for example).

Difference between facts and legal acts

The fundamental difference between legal facts and legal acts, according to most laws, has to do with the origin of the event that causes the legal consequences.

If said event is natural or social, without the will of one of the parties directly intervening, it is considered a legal fact. Conversely, the express will of the parties intervenes in a legal act seeking a specific legal consequence.

For example: a child at birth acquires a certain series of rights, which are granted to him by law and the legal system, without his having to expressly request them (since, among other things, he cannot do so yet), such as the right to have a nationality. His birth is, therefore, a legal fact.

But if that same individual later wishes to contract a new nationality and renounce the one he obtained at birth, we will instead be in the presence of a legal act, since in this case the express will of the individual mediates with respect to a legal consequence that he wishes to obtain. : the extinction of their nationality and the acquisition of another.