What does "Time of Execution" Mean?

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  • Written By: Mona D. Rigdon
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 08 February 2020
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In law, the term "time of execution" refers mainly to three legal concepts. In general law, time of execution often refers to putting a court's judgment into effect or the issuance of a writ that empowers an officer to enforce a judgment of the court. In contract and probate law, the term generally refers to the moment when a legal document is validated through all necessary formalities. In criminal law, "time of execution" refers to the time an illegal act is perpetrated. Less commonly, it also can refer to the time that an inmate sentenced to death is executed.

Within the general practice of law, it is common for a court to enter a judgment that requires some sort of action. This action could be as simple as payment of a debt, fine or fee, or it can be as complex as the requirement to inventory all personal items, have them appraised and auction them before splitting any proceeds. When those bound by judgment complete the court's requirements, the judgment or order is considered to have been executed.

In some cases, court intervention is necessary to complete orders, such as an involuntary repossession or an eviction. An officer might be required to go and take possession of a personal belonging or forcibly remove someone from his or her home, for example. When this happens, the time of execution refers to the time in which the act was carried out.


For the areas of contract law or probate law, the term refers more to the process of validating and making a document or agreement legal. Probate law holds that a will is executed when all required signatures, initials, witness signatures and notary attestations have been properly affixed to the document as required by the laws of the jurisdiction in which it is created. The meaning of the term is similar within contract law. When two or more parties or individuals enter into a legal contract, both parties must meet certain conditions in order to make the document legal and binding. If all of the requirements have been met at the time of execution, the document is considered legal and binding.

Within the realm of criminal law, the term has a broader range. Criminal attorneys use the term as a description of when an illegal act was carried out. Less commonly, it can be referred to describe the time an inmate was or will be put to death because of a sentence that requires execution.

The concept is an important one, because many laws depend on a specific set of circumstances at the time that a contract is signed or an act is carried out. For example, minors may not enter into binding legal contracts without parental consent. This means that if a person is not of legal age at the time of execution of a credit card contract or contract to purchase a vehicle, the contract is not legal and binding. Age and development at the time of execution of a crime enter into whether a child is charged as a juvenile or as an adult for crimes committed. Mental capacity of even an adult at the time of execution of a crime or the signing of a contract can negate liability, such as in the instances of mental disease or defect when a crime is committed or in cases of mental defect or sobriety when a contract is signed.


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