A legal person is a human or a non-human legal entity that is treated as a person for legal purposes. A legal person is capable of engaging in all usual legal business that a real person can participate in, such as suing, being sued, owning property, and entering into contracts.
The concept of legal personhood is especially popular in business law, where business organizations like corporations, partnerships, and limited liability companies possess legal personhood. As a result, these statutorily created entities are able to be treated as legally distinct from their shareholders and officers.
The legal personhood of legal entities is also understood to afford some constitutional rights to these entities, including the due process and equal protection aspects of the Fourteenth Amendment. This aspect of legal personhood featured prominently in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010) decision upholding political campaign contributions as an exercise of a corporation’s free speech rights.
A legal person may also be referred to as a fictitious person or an artificial person.
[Last updated in June of 2023 by the Wex Definitions Team]