Glossary of Legal Terms – L





This glossary should not be relied upon as legal advice. It is provided for general informational purposes only. To properly advise on any given situation requires a knowledge of the facts surrounding that situation. Laws and the statutory definitions of terms will vary from state to state. Specific questions should be directed to an attorney licensed in your state.

Lamictal: An epilepsy medicine. There are reports of dispensing errors involving Lamictal and Lamisil, a medication for the treatment of toenail fungus. Patients receiving Lamisil instead of Lamictal would be inadequately treated for epilepsy.

Lamisil: A medication for the treatment of toenail fungus. There are reports of dispensing errors involving Lamisil and Lamictal, an epilepsy medicine. Patients receiving Lamictal instead of Lamisil could experience adverse side effects.
Lapsed Gift: A gift made in a will to a person who has died prior to the will-makers death.

Landscape architect:   A professional who holds a degree in landscape architecture, which involves training in horticulture, landscape design and planning.

Landscape contractor:   A professional who carries out the plans of a landscape architect or a landscape designer.

Landscape designer:   A landscape designer has training in horticulture and landscape planning, but does not necessarily hold a degree.

Landscape:   A home’s surroundings can range from a shrub-studded emerald lawn to a native-plant xeriscape. It is a major component of curb appeal.

Larceny: Obtaining property by fraud or deceit.

Late charge:   A fee a lender imposes on a borrower when the borrower does not make a payment on time.

Late payment:   A payment a lender receives after the due date has passed.

Latent Defect: A defect in a product or premises that is not readily observable or discoverable even with the exercise of ordinary care.

Latent defect:   An invisible problem in a piece of property such as bad wiring, termite damage or lead paint.

Law Clerks: Persons trained in the law who assist in researching legal opinions.

Law: The combination of those rules and principles of conduct promulgated by legislative authority, derived from court decisions and established by local custom.

Lawsuit or Suit: Generally, a court action brought by one person, the plaintiff, against another, the defendant , seeking compensation for some injury or enforcement of a right.

Lay Witness: Any witness not testifying as an expert. Lay witnesses ordinarily cannot render an opinion as to the ultimate issue in the case and can only testify as to what they heard and saw.

Lead:   A metallic chemical element present in older dwellings, primarily in the form of lead-based paint and lead plumbing. Exposure to lead has been found to be a health risk.

Leading Case: Case regarded as having determined the law on a particular point, thus becoming a guide for later decisions.

Leading Question: A question that suggests the answer desired of the witness. A party generally may not ask one’s own witness leading questions. Leading questions may be asked only of hostile witnesses and on cross-examination.

Lease option:   A lease that contains the right to purchase the property for a specific price within a certain time frame.

Lease:   A binding agreement that contains the terms and conditions of a renter’s occupancy.

Leasehold estate:   An arrangement in which the borrower does not own a specific piece of property but possesses a long-term lease.

Legal Aid: Professional legal services available usually to persons or organizations unable to afford such services.

Legal blemish:   Blemishes on a piece of property, such as a zoning violation or fraudulent title claim.

Legal Cause: Substantial factor in bringing about the harm. See also proximate cause.

Legal custody: The right and duty to make decisions about raising a child.

Legal description:   A specific way of identifying and locating a piece of real estate that is acceptable to a court.

Legal Fiction: Assumption of a fact that may or may not be true made by a judge to decide a legal question.

Legal separation: A declaration by a court that the parties can live separate and apart even thought they are still married to each other.

Lender:   A bank, savings institution or mortgage company that offers home loans.

Leniency: Recommendation for a sentence less than the maximum allowed.

Letter Of Intent: A preliminary writing setting forth an understanding between parties. Letters of Intent ordinarily do not constitute binding agreements.

Letter of intent:   A formal statement that the buyer intends to purchase the property for a certain price on a certain date.

Letters of Administration: Legal document issued by a court that shows an administrator’s legal right to take control of assets in the deceased person’s name.

Letters Rogatory: A request from one court to another in a different state requesting that a witness in such other state be directed to submit to a deposition or answer written questions under oath.

Letters Testamentary: Legal document issued by a court that shows an executor’s legal right to take control of assets in the deceased person’s name.

Leukemia: A type of cancer that forms in the bone marrow, causing abnormal white blood cell development. Leukemia can be caused by exposure to certain carcinogenic substances.

Leverage:   The use of a small amount of cash–a 5 percent or 10 percent down payment–to buy a piece of property.

Liabilities:   A borrower’s debts and financial obligations.

Liability insurance:   A policy that protects owners against any claims of negligence, personal injury or property damage.

Liability Risk: Liability loss or exposure where negligent acts may occur for which an organization may be held responsible. The act must be injury to or property damage of others. Insurance coverage for this type of risk is called, “third party insurance.”

Liability: An obligation that one is bound in law to perform; usually involves the payment of money damages.

Libel Per Se: A libelous statement which falsely accuses another of a crime, immoral conduct or professional misconduct. To recover damages under such circumstances, it is not necessary to show actual monetary loss.

Libel: Published words or pictures that falsely and maliciously defame a person. Libel is published defamation; slander is spoken.

Liberal construction: Judicial interpretation of the law whereby the judge expands the literal meaning of the statute to meet cases that is clearly within the spirit or reason of the law. Compare with strict construction whereby the judge adheres to the literal meaning of the words.

Licensee: In civil law, a person who enters land with consent, but nothing more.

Lien: A legal claim against another person’s property as security for a debt. A lien does not convey ownership of the property, but gives the lien holder a right to have his or her debt satisfied out of the proceeds of the property if the debt is not otherwise paid.

Lien:   A claim laid by one person or company on the property of another as security for money owed.

Life cap:   A limit on the amount that a loan rate can move during the term of the mortgage. For example, the rate on an adjustable-rate mortgage that begins at 5 percent and has a lifetime cap of 6 percentage points cannot rise above 11 percent, even if rates on fixed-rate mortgages soar to 20 percent.

Life-cycle cost analysis:   An analysis of a building project’s expected operating, maintenance and replacement costs, calculated by an architect.

Limine: A motion requesting that the court not allows certain evidence that might prejudice the jury.

Limitations: See Statute of Limitations.

Limited divorce: A limited divorce is a legal action in which the court supervises a couple’s separation.

Limited Jurisdiction: Refers to courts that are limited in the types of criminal and civil cases they may hear. For example, traffic violations generally are heard by limited jurisdiction courts.

Limited Liability: The limitation placed upon the amount a limited partner or corporate shareholder can lose by reason of lawsuits or claims filed against a corporation. Such losses are limited to the investment made.

Limited partnership:   Real estate syndicates and other investment groups use this type of ownership.. A general partner makes the group’s investment decisions, oversees the investment and is principally liable for any losses.

Limited tort option: Purchasers of motor vehicle insurance can choose “limited tort,” which restricts their right to seek money damages for an accident caused by another driver. Under limited tort, the insured can only seek money damages for economic loss, including medical bills. The insured is prohibited from seeking damages for pain and suffering, except under certain limited circumstances. Compare with full tort option.

Lintel:   A horizontal piece over a door or window that carries the weight of the structure above it.

Liquid assets:   Cash and all other assets that can be converted to cash relatively quickly. Liquid assets can include money in savings and checking accounts, money-market accounts, and most certificates of deposit.

Liquidate: The selling of a debtor’s property; proceeds distributed to creditors.

Liquidated damages:   When a real estate deal goes awry, one party often is entitled to liquidated damages, a sum of money set out in the purchase contract in that event.

Listing inventories:   The known number of houses for sale within a given market.

Listing:   A piece of property placed on the market by a listing agent.

Litigant: A party to a lawsuit. Litigation refers to a case, controversy, or lawsuit.

Litigation: A judicial proceeding in which the rights, duties and obligations of parties are determined.

Live-in partnership:   An arrangement in which two unrelated people purchase a home.

Live-work space:   An officially designated dwelling in which the occupant conducts a home-based business or enterprise.

Living Trust: A trust set up and in effect during the lifetime of the grantor. Also called inter vivos trust.
Locum Tenens: A healthcare provider who is serving as a temporary relief or substitute.

Load-bearing wall:   A wall that supports not only its own weight, but the weight of other parts of a home. Also called a bearing wall.

Loan application fee:   A fee charged by lenders to for making a loan application.

Loan application:   The first step toward submitting a home loan requires the borrower to itemize basic financial information.

Loan commitment:  A promise by a lender or other financial institution to make or insure a loan for a specified amount and on specific terms.

Loan officer:   An official representative of a lending institution who is empowered to act on behalf of the lender within certain limits.

Loan origination fee:   Most lenders charge borrowers an origination fee–or points–for processing a loan. A point is 1 percent of the total loan amount.

Loan processing fee:   A fee charged by some lenders for gathering information to enable the lender to process the loan.

Loan term:   The amount of a time set by the lender for a buyer to pay a mortgage. Most conventional loans have 30-year or 15-year terms.

Loan -to-value ratio:   A technical measure used by lenders to assess the relationship of the loan amount to the value of the property

Lock-in:   When interest rates are volatile, many borrowers want to “lock in” an interest rate and many lenders will oblige, setting a limit on the amount of time the lock-in is in effect.

Loft:   A living space not partitioned into rooms or a small space built above a larger room.

Log cabin:   Homes constructed of rough-hewn timbers and a standard housing form in the early European settlement of theU.S.

Long-Arm Statute: Law that allows residents of different states to be served with process and sued in the forum state by virtue of contacts with the forum state.

Loss of consortium: Damages awarded to a family member (usually a spouse) for loss of companionship.

Lotronex: A drug used to treat irritable bowel syndrome in women. The manufacturer voluntarily withdrew Lotronex® from the market after it was associated with reports of serious side effects such as intestinal damage, severely obstructed or ruptured bowels, and death.

Low density:   A low concentration of housing units in a specific area.

Low-ball offer:   An offer made to a seller that is substantially below market value. The longer a property stays on the market, the more likely there are to be such offers.

Low-documentation loan:   A mortgage that requires only minimal verification of income and assets.

Low-down-payment loan:   A home loan that requires the borrower to make only a small down payment before obtaining the financing needed to purchase a house.

Lump Sum Settlement: Arrangement whereby the entire amount of compensation due to an employee or injured party is paid at one time, often at a discount.

Lymphoma: A type of cancer that forms in the lymph nodes. Lymphoma can be caused by exposure to certain carcinogenic substances.