Glossary of Legal Terms – M






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.

Magistrate: Judicial officer exercising some of the functions of a judge. It also refers in a general way to a judge.

Main water shut-off valve:   The primary valve that halts the flow of water from the water meter into a home.

Maintenance fee:    The monthly assessment members of a homeowners’ association pay for the repair and maintenance of common areas.

Malfeasance: Commission of a wrongful act; evil doing; wrongful conduct.

Malicious Prosecution: An action instituted with intention of injuring the defendant and without probable cause, and which terminates in favor of the person prosecuted.

Malpractice: Negligence by a professional such as a doctor, lawyer or engineer in the performance of professional duties; professional misconduct.

Managed-competition lots:    Lots in which buyers choose between one of several builders.

Mandamus: A writ or directive issued by a court to an official compelling the performance of the official’s duties.

Mandate: A judicial command or order.

Mansard roof:    A roof with four sides that slope upward from the roof edge to the square peak.

Manslaughter: The unlawful killing of another without intent to kill; either voluntary (upon a sudden impulse); or involuntary (during the commission of an unlawful act not ordinarily expected to result in great bodily harm). See also murder.

Mantel:    The facing of stone, marble or other material around a fireplace.

Manufactured housing:    Prefabricated homes that can range from simple trailers to larger dwellings.

Margin:    The lender’s “retail markup” on the mortgage. For example, if the index rate for an adjustable-rate mortgage is 5 percent but the lender has a 2.5 percentage-point margin, the rate the borrower will pay is 7.5 percent.

Marital property: Marital property is defined as all assets acquired during the marriage and prior to the date of separation. All marital property is subject to fair distribution between the marital partners.

Market conditions:    Factors affecting the sale and purchase of homes at a particular point in time.

Market value:    The price that a piece of property sells for at a particular point in time.

Masonry:    The brick or stone work on a building.

Master-planned community:    A suburban plan that includes homes and commercial, work, educational and community facilities.

Material Fact: Generally, a fact essential to a case or a defense without which said case or defense could not be supported.

Matrix: A list of the names and addresses of creditors typically filed with the petition and schedules upon commencement of the bankruptcy case.

Maximum financing:    A loan amount within 5 percent of the highest loan-to-value ratio allowed for a property.

Mechanical systems:    A home’s plumbing, wiring, heating and cooling systems.

Mechanic’s lien:    Subcontractors or suppliers sometimes will file an encumbrance, or mechanic’s lien, against a property to seek payment.

Median price:    The price of the house that falls in the middle of the total number of homes for sale in that area.

Mediation: A form of alternative dispute resolution in which the parties bring their dispute to a neutral third party, who helps them agree on a settlement.
Medical Incident: Any act, error or omission during the providing of professional services.

Mediation:    A dispute-resolution process in which a neutral party works to resolve contract differences.

Medical lien: The right of a hospital, doctor or health care provider to assert an interest in personal injury recoveries to the extent of the cost of the treatment or service provided.

Medical Malpractice: Improper or negligent treatment of a person under a medical professional’s care, which results in injury or death.

Medical Negligence: Failure of a physician or other medical personnel to meet the standards of conduct for duties relating to the medical profession. Those standards are based on what a reasonable person with the requisite knowledge and skills would or would not do.

Mellaril: An antipsychotic drug for schizophrenics. Mellaril has been associated with causing cardiac arrhythmias and sudden death.

Member: In relation to health care, a member is a person who belongs to a health care plan, like an HMO

Memorialized: In writing.

Mens Rea: The “guilty mind” necessary to establish criminal responsibility.

Mental Anguish: Mental suffering. In some cases, damages may be awarded for mental anguish even though no physical injury is present.

Merged credit report:    A report that draws information from the Big Three credit-reporting companies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion Corp.

Meridia: A prescription diet drug containing Sibutramine. Sibutramine has been associated adverse cardiovascular effects and, in some instances, death.

Mesothelioma: A type of cancer found in people who have been exposed to asbestos. Mesothelioma can occur in the lining of the lungs or abdomen, and it has no known cure.
Minority: The state of being a minor; infancy; one who has not reached the age of majority.

Metes and bounds:    A time-honored land surveying method of describing land in terms of shape and boundary dimensions.

Mint condition:    Mint condition, or blue-ribbon condition, refers to a house that looks as close to new as possible.

Miranda Warning: Requirement that police tell a suspect in their custody of his or her constitutional rights before they question him or her. So named as a result of the Miranda v. Arizona ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Misdemeanor: Crimes less serious than felonies.

Misdiagnosis: A medical professional’s failure to properly identify and diagnose a patient’s medical condition. A doctor can be held liable for any damages that result from a misdiagnosis if the medical mistake was a result of negligence. Medical negligence (a subtype of medical malpractice) is defined as a medical professional’s failure to exact the degree of care, skill, and prudence that a reasonable medical professional would in a similar situation.

Misfeasance: Improper performance of a lawful act.

Mistrial: A trial that has been terminated and voided due to a fundamental and prejudicial error occurring during the course of the proceeding, or because the jury was unable to reach a verdict.
Mitigating Circumstances: Extenuating circumstances that in justice and fairness may reduce the degree of damages or punishment. Mitigating circumstances do not constitute justification for a wrongful act.
Mitigation of Damages or Doctrine of Avoidable Consequences: Imposes a duty on victims of a tort to take reasonable steps to minimize their damages after an injury has been inflicted.

Mittimus: The name of an order in writing, issuing from a court and directing the sheriff or other officer to convey a person to a prison, asylum, or reformatory, and directing the jailer or other appropriate official to receive and safely keep the person until his or her fate shall be determined by due course of law.

Mixed-income housing:    A neighborhood that contains houses of widely varying prices.

Mixed-use development:    A project that combines several different functions, such as residential space above a commercial establishment or an entire development combining commercial, residential and public accommodations.

Modification:    A change in any of the terms of the loan agreement.

Molding:    Decorative trim elements applied to walls, ceilings, and window and door openings.

Money market account:    Accounts that work like money market funds and allow individual investors to participate in certain managed investments and withdraw funds under most conditions.

Money market funds:    A mutual fund that pools the resources of individuals to invest in certain managed investments.

Monopoly: An association formed to directly or indirectly control a particular industry or trade in order to reduce or eliminate competition, generally in violation of anti-trust laws.

Moot: A moot case or a moot point is one not subject to a judicial determination because it involves an abstract question or a pretended controversy that has not yet actually arisen or has already passed. Mootness usually refers to a court’s refusal to consider a case because the issue involved has been resolved prior to the court’s decision, leaving nothing that would be affected by the court’s decision.

Mortgage acceleration clause:    A clause which allows a lender to demand that the entire balance of the loan be repaid in a lump sum under certain circumstances. The acceleration clause is usually triggered if the home is sold, title to the property is changed, the loan is refinanced or the borrower defaults on a scheduled payment.

Mortgage banker:    A company that provides home loans using its own money. The loans are usually sold to investors such as insurance companies and Fannie Mae.

Mortgage broker:    A company that matches lenders with prospective borrowers who meet the lender’s criteria. The mortgage broker does not make the loan, but receives payment from the lender for services.

Mortgage insurance:    Required by lenders in some loans to protect them from a possible default . All conventional loans with less than a 20 percent down payments require private mortgage insurance, or PMI.

Mortgage life insurance:    A special type of insurance that will pay off a mortgage if the borrower dies before the debt is retired.

Mortgage:    A legal document specifying a certain amount of money to purchase a home at a certain interest rate, and using the property as collateral.

Mortgagee:    A bank or other financial institution that lends money to the borrower. The borrower is considered the mortgagor.

Mortgage-interest deduction:    The tax write-off that the Internal Revenue Service allows most owners to claim for the annual interest payments they make on their real estate loans.

Mortgagor:    The person who borrows money to purchase a house. The lender is called the mortgagee.

Motion: An application made to a judge for the purpose of obtaining an order directing some act to be done in favor of the party presenting the application.

Motivated buyer:    Any buyer with a strong incentive to make a purchase.

Motivated seller:    Any seller with a strong incentive to make a deal.

Move-in condition:    A house that is ready for a new occupant.

Move-up buyer:    A buyer who has purchased a home before and is looking for a bigger or more expensive home.

Moving Party: The party presenting the motion. Compare with non-moving party.

MRI Scans: Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is another type of sophisticated diagnostic imaging which examines body tissues by subjecting the atomic nuclei of the tissues through a magnetic field. The procedure is non-invasive and is thought to be safer than many other procedures. MRI studies are extremely effective, and produce high-resolution images giving information as to the metabolic status of tissues and organs, as well as structural information regarding the body itself. The MRI picture is of such a good contrast that biochemical information about abnormal tissue can often times be derived. MRI’s are especially effective in the diagnosis of traumatic brain injury, and other abnormalities involving tissues of the brain. Its use is not limited to the brain, and MRI’s are often used in order to diagnose problems with the spine, eyes, liver, kidneys, pancreas, pelvic structures, temporomandibular joint, liver and spleen, pericardium, heart, and various joints.

Mullion:    A vertical dividing bar between window lights or panels.

Multidwelling property:    A property that contains individual units for several households but carries only one mortgage.

Multifamily mortgage:    A mortgage on a multifamily dwelling with more than four families, typically an apartment building.

Multiple listing service (MLS: )   The service combines the listings for all available homes in an area, except For-Sale-By-Owner (FSBO) properties, in one directory or database.

Multiple offers:    Multiple purchase offers occur in hot markets or hot neighborhoods.

Municipal housing inspector:    Inspectors employed by cities or counties to check all construction sites and verify that contractors are meeting building codes.

Murder: The unlawful killing of a human being with deliberate intent to kill. Murder in the first degree is characterized by premeditation; murder in the second degree is characterized by a sudden and instantaneous intent to kill or to cause injury without caring whether the injury kills or not. (See also manslaughter.)