The term “inchoate” refers to a state of activity or entitlement that is characterized by partial completion of an intended outcome or status. The notion of inchoate comes into play most often in a legal sense, as it could refer to an inchoate transaction between two parties, where the tentative terms of an agreement have been discussed, and it’s plausible that the deal will go through, but no formal agreement has yet been signed.
“Inchoate” can also be applied to rights, actions, titles, liens, and even criminal activity, such as in an attempted crime. It is the opposite of choate, which refers to an action, right, title, lien, or criminal activity that is fully complete and realized.
The notion of inchoate rights or actions is an important distinction to make in certain situations. For example, an individual may have inchoate title to real estate owned by their parents, meaning that they will have clear title to the property once the parents pass away. In the past, young women were often considered to have an inchoate right to a dowry prior to being wed that would be finalized upon marriage.
When applying for a bank loan, it would be critical for the bank manager to understand that the individual only had inchoate title to the property, not full title. Thus, if the bank manager issued a loan to the individual under the unclarified assumption that the bank could foreclose on the properties if the loan went into default, they would be in for an unpleasant surprise. This is because the individual would not actually have clear title to the properties, so the bank would have no claim against him or her.
Inchoate can also be applied to transactions that have been agreed upon, but still not finalized. In the world of corporate mergers, Company A may agree to purchase Company M. Representatives of the two companies meet and agree to terms, including a price. But until the paperwork is drawn up and signed and the deal is finalized, the transaction remains inchoate, or incomplete. The concept of inchoate is important in the world of corporate mergers because a great deal of time can often pass between the announcement of a deal and its finalization. During this period, terms of the deal can change, and it can still fall through. Real estate transactions are also often inchoate until closing.