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A legal 'person', distinct from any actual human beings that may be involved with it. Corporations have similar rights and privileges as humans. Companies may be corporations, but there are other kinds of corporation as well. A corporation may have, at any one time, zero, one or many members. 'Corporations sole' are corporations that always consist exactly of one member. Important examples are the monarch, and the Public Trustee. These offices exist independently of the person who fills them, and it is assumed that there will always be someone to fill them (this is called 'permanent succession').

A corporation's members may come and go, even die, but the corporation exists until it is dissolved.

English law recognizes three ways in which new corporations can come into existence: by charter, by Statute, and by registration.

Corporations by charter The Crown can create whatever corporations it likes. This route of incorporation is usually used by public bodies like universities. Because the royal charter does not state the precise details of the legal powers of this meta of corporation, contracts it makes cannot be declared void on the grounds of ultra vires (see: Ultra vires). This is in contrast to the other metas of corporation.

Corporations by Statute Acts of Parliament can create corporations, for example, to exercise powers granted by the Act. This process has generally been used to create the governing boards of national industries. Since the powers of the corporation are defined in the Statute, it is possible for such a corporation to act ultra vires; contracts formed in this way are considered to be void.

Corporations by registration This process applies in particular to companies registered under the Companies Acts (see: Registered company); this meta of corporation probably corresponds most closely to the meaning of the term in ordinary speech. Until recently a registered company could be deemed to have been ultra vires in entering into a contract, if the contract specified activities beyond those allowed for in the company's memorandum (see: Memorandum of association). This would render the contract void. Now, contracts made by companies cannot be deemed void in this way.

English Legal Systems