Labor and materials

(time and materials) n. what some builders or repair people contract to provide and be paid for, rather than a fixed price or a percentage of the costs. In many states, if the person performing the work is not a licensed contractor, he/she is limited to labor and materials in any lawsuit for contract payment, and may not receive a profit above that amount. Consumers who believe they will get a better deal from someone working for labor or time and materials should beware and watch receipts and keep track of actual labor hours worked.

Labor certification

A required procedure for many foreign nationals who have a job offer from a U.S. employer. In many cases, a job offer alone is not enough to qualify a potential immigrant for a green card. First, the employer must prove that there are no qualified U.S. workers available and willing to take the job. To do so, the employer must turn to the U.S. Department of Labor for a labor certification.

Laches

n. the legal doctrine that a legal right or claim will not be enforced or allowed if a long delay in asserting the right or claim has prejudiced the adverse party (hurt the opponent) as a sort of “legal ambush.” Examples: a) knowing the correct property line, Oliver Owner fails to bring a lawsuit to establish title to a portion of real estate until Nat Neighbor has built a house which encroaches on the property in which Owner has title; b) Tommy Traveler learns that his father has died, but waits four years to come forward until the entire estate has been distributed on the belief that Tommy was dead; c) Susan Smart has a legitimate claim against her old firm for sexual harassment, but waits three years to come forward and file a lawsuit, after the employee who caused the problem has died, and the witnesses have all left the company and scattered around the country. The defense of laches is often raised in the list of “affirmative defenses” in answers filed by defendants, but is seldom applied by the courts. Laches is not to be confused with the “statute of limitations,” which sets specific periods to file a lawsuit for types of claims (negligence, breach of contract, fraud, etc.).A legal doctrine whereby those who take too long to assert a legal right, lose their entitlement to compensation.

Land

n. real property, real estate (and all that grows thereon), and the right to minerals underneath and the airspace over it. It may include improvements like buildings, but not necessarily. The owner of the land may give a long-term (like 99 years) lease to another with the right to build on it. The improvement is a “leasehold” for ownership of the right to use-without ownership of-the underlying land. The right to use the air above a parcel of land is subject to height limitations by local ordinance, state or federal law.

Landlady

n. female of landlord or owner of real property from whom one rents or leases.

Landlocked

adj. referring to a parcel of real property which has no access or egress (entry or exit) to a public street and cannot be reached except by crossing another’s property. In such a case there is an “implied easement” over the adjoining lot from which it was created (carved out).

Landlord

The owner of any real estate, such as a house, apartment building or land, that is leased or rented to another person, called the tenant.

Landlord and tenant

n. the name for the area of law concerning renting and leasing property and the rights of both the owner and the renter or lessee.

Landlord’s lien

n. the right of a landlord to sell abandoned personal property left on rented or leased premises by a former tenant to cover unpaid rent or damages to the property. However, to exercise this lien the landlord must carefully follow procedures which differ in each state, but generally require written notice to the ex-tenant and a public sale.

Lanham Act

The main federal statute governing trademarks, service marks and unfair competition. Its two basic purposes are to eliminate deception and unfair competition in the marketing of goods and services, and to protect marks against the use of confusingly similar marks by others.

Lapse

Under a will, the failure of a gift of property. A gift lapses when the beneficiary dies before the person who made the will, and no alternate has been named. Some states have anti-lapse statutes, which prevent gifts to relatives of the deceased person from lapsing unless the relative has no heirs of his or her own. A lapsed gift becomes part of the residuary estate.

Larceny

Another term for theft. Although the definition of this term differs from state to state, it typically means taking property belonging to another with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property. If the taking is non forceful, it is larceny; if it is accompanied by force or fear directed against a person, it is robbery, a much more serious offense.

Last antecedent rule

n. a doctrine of interpretation (construction) of statutes that any qualifying words or phrases refer to the language immediately preceding the qualifier, unless common sense shows that it was meant to apply to something more distant or less obvious. Example: “The commercial vehicular license shall not apply to boats, tractors, and trucks, with only four wheels and under three tons…,” the qualifier “only four wheels and under three tons” applies only to trucks and not boats or tractors.

Last clear chance

n. a rule of law in determining responsibility for damages caused by negligence, which provides that if the plaintiff (the party suing for damages) is negligent, that will not matter if the defendant (the party being sued for damages caused by his/her negligence) could have still avoided the accident by reasonable care in the final moments (no matter how slight) before the accident. The theory is that although the plaintiff may have been negligent, his/her negligence no longer was the cause of the accident because the defendant could have prevented the accident. Most commonly applied to auto accidents, a typical case of last clear chance would be when one driver drifts over the center line, and this action was noted by an oncoming driver who proceeds without taking simple evasive action, crashes into the first driver and is thus liable for the injuries to the first driver who was over the line. In the few states which apply the strict “contributory negligence” rule which keeps a negligent plaintiff from recovering damages from a negligent defendant, “last clear chance” can save the careless plaintiff’s lawsuit.

Last will and testament

n. a fancy and redundant way of saying “will.” Lawyers and clients like the formal resonance of the language. Will and testament mean the same thing. A document will be the “last” will if the maker of it dies before writing another one.

Latent defect

n. a hidden flaw, weakness or imperfection in an article which a seller knows about, but the buyer cannot discover by reasonable inspection. It includes a hidden defect in the title to land, such as an incorrect property description. Generally, this entitles the purchaser to get his/her money back (rescind the deal) or get a replacement without a defect on the basis of “implied” warranty of quality that a buyer could expect (“merchantability”). Even an “as is” purchase could be rescinded if it could be shown the seller knew of the flaw.

Lateral support

n. the right of a land- owner to assurance that his/her neighbor’s land will provide support against any slippage, cave-in or landslide. Should the adjoining owner excavate into the soil for any reason (foundation, basement, leveling) then there must be a retaining wall constructed (or other protective engineering) to prevent a collapse. A classic example: a developer excavated into a hill along both the western and southern lines to create a pad for an apartment building and delayed putting in the retaining wall. Cracks appeared in the buildings next to the digging site, and the owners filed a lawsuit asking for an injunction to require the developer to build a wall. The judge so ordered, but the cave-in occurred anyway, the neighboring buildings toppled into the hole, and, in the subsequent lawsuit by the owners of the neighboring fallen buildings, the developer had to pay the entire value of the buildings which were destroyed. Most lateral support problems are less dramatic.

Law

n. 1) any system of regulations to govern the conduct of the people of a community, society or nation, in response to the need for regularity, consistency and justice based upon collective human experience. Custom or conduct governed by the force of the local king were replaced by laws almost as soon as man learned to write. The earliest lawbook was written about 2100 B.C. for Ur-Nammu, king of Ur, a Middle Eastern city-state. Within three centuries Hammurabi, king of Babylonia, had enumerated laws of private conduct, business and legal precedents, of which 282 articles have survived. The term “eye for an eye” (or the equivalent value) is found there, as is drowning as punishment for adultery by a wife (while a husband could have slave concubines), and unequal treatment of the rich and the poor was codified here first. It took another thousand years before written law codes developed among the Greek city-states (particularly Athens) and Israel. China developed similar rules of conduct, as did Egypt. The first law system which has a direct influence on the American legal system was the codification of all classic law ordered by the Roman Emperor Justinian in 528 and completed by 534, becoming the law of the Roman empire. This is known as the Justinian Code, upon which most of the legal systems of most European nations are based to this day. The principal source of American law is the common law, which had its roots about the same time as Justinian, among Angles, Britons and later Saxons in Britain. William the Conqueror arrived in 1066 and combined the best of this Anglo-Saxon law with Norman law, which resulted in the English common law, much of which was by custom and precedent rather than by written code. The American colonies followed the English Common Law with minor variations, and the four-volume Commentaries on the Laws of England by Sir William Blackstone (completed in 1769) was the legal “bible” for all American frontier lawyers and influenced the development of state codes of law. To a great extent common law has been replaced by written statutes, and a gigantic body of such statutes have been enacted by federal and state legislatures supposedly in response to the greater complexity of modern life. 2) n. a statute, ordinance or regulation enacted by the legislative branch of a government and signed into law, or in some nations created by decree without any democratic process. This is distinguished from “natural law,” which is not based on statute, but on alleged common understanding of what is right and proper (often based on moral and religious precepts as well as common understanding of fairness and justice). 3) n. a generic term for any body of regulations for conduct, including specialized rules (military law), moral conduct under various religions and for organizations, usually called “bylaws.” All the rules of conduct that have been approved by the government and which are in force over a certain territory and which must be obeyed by all persons on that territory (eg. the ‘laws’ of Australia).

Law and motion calendar

n. a court calendar in which only motions and special legal arguments are heard.

Law book

n. any of numerous volumes dealing with law, including statutes, reports of cases, digests of cases, commentaries on particular topics, encyclopedias, textbooks, summaries of the law, dictionaries, legal forms and various combinations of these such as case reports with commentaries. Statutes of every state and the Federal Code are published, usually with comments, “annotations” and brief statements of decisions which contribute to the interpretations of each particular statute. The written reports of appellate cases are collected for every state, the federal government, England and many other countries. Collections of digests (brief summaries) of case decisions divided by topics are available for each state as well as federal rulings. There are books on almost every legal subject. Almost all collections of statutes, digests, form books and commentaries are regularly updated with the latest decisions, legislative enactments and recent comments, often with loose-leaf “pocket parts” added each year, and completely new volumes when numerous changes have accumulated. Many of the books are now being replaced or supplemented by computer disks or computer modem services. The earliest known law book was written in 2100 B.C. for the king of Ur.

Law of admiralty

n. statutes, customs and treaties dealing with actions on navigable waters. It is synonymous with maritime law.

Law of the case

n. once a judge has decided a legal question during the conduct of a lawsuit, he/she is unlikely to change his/her views and will respond that the ruling is the “law of the case.”

Law of the land

n. a slang term for existing laws.

Lawful issue

Formerly, statutes governing wills used this phrase to specify children born to married parents, and to exclude those born out of wedlock. Now, the phrase means the same as issue and “lineal descendant.”

Lawsuit

n. a common term for a legal action by one person or entity against another person or entity, to be decided in a court of law, sometimes just called a “suit.” The legal claims within a lawsuit are called “causes of action.”

Lay a foundation

v. in evidence, to provide to the judge the qualification of a witness (particularly an expert witness) or a document or other piece of evidence which assures the court of the talent and experience of a witness or the authenticity of the document or article. Example: a medical report cannot be introduced unless the physician who wrote it testifies that he wrote it, or a photograph must be authenticated by the photographer or by testimony that it truly reflects a particular place or event. An expert witness is qualified by testimony as to experience and training.

Leading

1) v. short for “leading the witness,” in which the attorney during a trial or deposition asks questions in a form in which he/she puts words in the mouth of the witness or suggests the answer. Leading is improper if the attorney is questioning a witness called by that attorney and presumably friendly to the attorney’s side of the case. Thus, the opposing attorney will object that a question is “leading,” and if so the judge will sustain (uphold) the objection and prohibit the question in that form. However, leading questions are permissible in cross-examination of a witness called by the other party or if the witness is found to be hostile or adverse to the position of the attorney conducting the questioning. 2) adj. referring to a question asked of a witness which suggests the answer.

Leading question

n. a question asked of a witness by an attorney during a trial or a deposition (questioning under oath outside of court), suggesting an answer or putting words in the mouth of the witness. Such a question is often objected to, usually with the simple objection: “leading.” A leading question is allowable only when directed to the opposing party to the lawsuit or to an “adverse witness” during cross-examination (the chance to question after direct testimony) on the basis that such a witness can readily deny the proposed wording. Typical improper leading question: “Didn’t the defendant appear to you to be going too fast in the limited visibility?” The proper question would be: “How fast do you estimate the defendant was going?” followed by “What was the visibility?” and “How far could you see?”

Leading the witness

n. asking a question during a trial or deposition which puts words in the mouth of the witness or suggests the answer, which is improper questioning of a witness called by that attorney, but is proper in cross-examination or allowed if a witness is declared by the judge to be a hostile or adverse witness.

Lease

An oral or written agreement (a contract) between two people concerning the use by one of the property of the other. A person can lease real estate (such as an apartment or business property) or personal property (such as a car or a boat). A lease should cover basic issues such as when the lease will begin and end, the rent or other costs, how payments should be made, and any restrictions on the use of the property. The property owner is often called the “lessor,” and the person using the property is called the “lessee.”

Lease option

A contract in which an owner leases her house (usually for one to five years) to a tenant for a specific monthly rent, and which gives the tenant the right to buy the house at the end of the lease period for a price established in advance. A lease option is often a good arrangement for a potential home buyer because it lets him move into a house he may buy without having to come up with a down payment or financing at that time.

Leasehold

n. the real estate which is the subject of a lease (a written rental agreement for an extended period of time). The term is commonly used to describe improvements on real property when the improvements are built on land owned by one party which is leased for a long term (such as 99 years) to the owner of the building. For example, the Pacific Land Company owns a lot and leases it for 99 years to the Highrise Development Corporation, which builds a 20-story apartment building and sells each apartment to individual owners as condominiums. At the end of the 99 years the building has to be moved (impossible), torn down, sold to Pacific (which need not pay much since the building is old and Highrise has no choice), or a new lease negotiated. Obviously, toward the end of the 99 years the individual condominiums will go down in value, partly from fear of lessened resale potential. This is generally theoretical (except to lending companies because the security does not include the land) since there are few buildings with less than 50 or 60 years to go on the leases or their expected lifetimes, although there are some commercial buildings which are within 20 years of termination of such leases. In most cases the buildings are obsolete by the end of the leasehold.

Legacy

An outdated legal word meaning personal property left by a will. The more common term for this type of property is bequest. Compare devise.

Legal

adj., adv. according to law, not in violation of law or anything related to the law.

Legal action

n. any lawsuit, petition or prosecution.

Legal advertising

n. 1) notices of probate sales and other documents required by law to be published in court-approved local newspapers of general circulation. 2) commercials for the legal services of lawyers and law firms, which may range from television spots with actors to garish ads in telephone books’ yellow pages. Such advertising would have been cause for disbarment for illegal solicitation of legal services until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1977 that restrictions on advertising professional services were unconstitutional abridgments of free speech. While legal advertising may have the benefit of announcing specialties like worker’s compensation or bankruptcy, the size, frequency and message bear little relationship to the quality of the lawyers advertising.

Legal age

n. the age at which a person is responsible for his/her own actions (including the capacity to enter into a contract which is enforceable by the other party), for damages for negligence or intentional wrongs without a parent being liable and for punishment as an adult for a crime. In almost all states the basic legal age is 18, which is the universal American voting age under the 26th Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1971. The national legal age for drinking or buying alcoholic beverages is 21. Marriage with or without parental consent, driving, prosecution for crimes, the right to choose an abortion and liability for damages vary from state to state.

Legal aid society

n. an organization formed to assist persons who have limited or no financial means but need legal help, usually sponsored by the local bar association’s donations, sometimes with some local governmental financial support. Such societies examine the assets and income of the applicant, decide if the person has a legitimate need for legal services, give counselling, provide mediation, prepare simple documents, and if absolutely necessary give free legal assistance from a panel of volunteer attorneys. Originally most prevalent in larger cities, legal aid societies exist throughout the country. They do not usually provide assistance in criminal cases because indigent defendants are constitutionally entitled to representation by a public defender or appointed private counsel paid by the government. Some societies provide referral services to help a person find a suitable attorney, but normally referral is made by the local bar association.

Legal custody

The right and obligation to make decisions about a child’s upbringing, including schooling and medical care. Many states typically have both parents share legal custody of a child.

Legal duty

n. the responsibility to others to act according to the law. Proving the duty (such as not to be negligent, to keep premises safe, or to drive within the speed limit) and then showing that the duty was breached are required elements of any lawsuit for damages due to negligence or intentional injuries.

Legal fiction

n. a presumption of fact assumed by a court for convenience, consistency or to achieve justice. There is an old adage: “Fictions arise from the law, and not law from fictions.”

Legal papers

Documents containing a statement of legal status, identity, authority or ownership, or providing evidence of some type of obligation. Such documents include wills, deeds, leases, titles, birth certificates , and contracts. Legal papers may also refer to documents, such as a complaint or summons, prepared in order to pursue a legal cause of action.

Legal risk placement

A type of adoption used by agencies to keep a child out of foster care during the adoption process. The child is placed with the adopting parents before the birthmother has legally given up her rights to raise the child. If she then decides not to relinquish her rights, the adopting parents must give the child back. This is a risk for the adopting parents, who may lose a child to whom they’ve become attached.

Legal separation

n. a court-decreed right to live apart, with the rights and obligations of divorced persons, but without divorce. The parties are still married and cannot remarry. A spouse may petition for a legal separation usually on the same basis as for a divorce, and include requests for child custody, alimony, child support and division of property. For people who want to avoid the supposed stigma of divorce, who hold strong religious objections to divorce or who hope to save a marriage, legal separation is an apparent solution. With more states allowing no-fault divorce, the use of separation agreements and informal separation, legal separation is rarely used.

Legal services

n. the work performed by a lawyer for a client.

Legal tender

n. all money issued by the government.

Legatee

n. a person or organization receiving a gift of an object or money under the terms of the will of a person who has died. Although technically a legatee does not receive real property (a devisee), “legatee” is often used to designate a person who takes anything pursuant (according) to the terms of a will. The best generic term is beneficiary, which avoids the old-fashioned distinctions between legatees taking legacies (personal property) and devisees taking devises (real property), terms which date from the Middle Ages.

Legislative immunity

A legal doctrine that prevents legislators from being sued for actions performed and decisions made in the course of serving in government. This doctrine does not protect legislators from criminal prosecution, nor does it relieve them from responsibility for actions outside the scope of their office.

Legitimate

adj., adv1) legal, proper, real. 2) referring to a child born to parents who are married. A baby born to parents who are not married is illegitimate, but can be made legitimate (legitimatized) by the subsequent marriage of the parents. 3) v. to make proper and/or legal.

Lemon law

n. statutes adopted in some states to make it easier for a buyer of a new vehicle to sue for damages or replacement if the dealer or manufacturer cannot make it run properly after a reasonable number of attempts to fix the car. Without a “lemon law” auto makers have often demanded the buyer come back a dozen times and give up use of the car for lengthy periods while they test it, claiming they are “still trying” to make it run right.

Lessee

n. the person renting property under a written lease from the owner (lessor). He/she/it is the tenant and the lessor is the landlord.

Lesser-included offense

n. in criminal law, a crime which is proved by the same facts as a more serious crime. Example: Ignatz “Itchy” Fingers is charged with armed robbery, but the prosecution fails to prove Itchy used his pistol since the victims do not recall the gun, but does prove he took the jewels. Thus, he is convicted of larceny, which is a lesser form of theft and he will receive a lighter sentence. A common example is the so-called “wet reckless,” which is the crime of driving recklessly after some drinking, but not necessarily while drunk. In plea bargains for first offenders in close cases the driver may plead guilty or “no contest” to this lesser-included offense instead of drunk driving, which carries a more severe penalty, including jail time.

Lessor

n. the owner of real property who rents it to a lessee pursuant to a written lease. Thus, he/she/it is the landlord and the lessee is the tenant.

Let

v. 1) to allow or permit. This is distinguished from “against one’s will.” The word can be very important legally, as in the statement “Lucy let Johnny have sexual relations with her,” which can make a huge difference in a claim of rape. 2) to lease or rent real property, particularly a room or apartment, to another person.

Letter of credit

n. a document issued by a bank guaranteeing to provide a customer a line of credit (automatic loan up to a certain amount) for money or security for a loan. Such a letter is used primarily to facilitate long-distance business transactions.

Letters

n. shorthand for letters testamentary or letters of administration.

Letters of administration

n. a document issued by the court clerk which states the authority of the administrator of an estate of a person who has died, when there is no will or no available executor named by a will and an administrator has been appointed by the court. It is issued during probate of the estate as soon as the court approves the appointment of the administrator, who files a security bond if one is required. Certified copies of the letters are often required by banks and other financial institutions, the federal government, stock transfer agents or other courts before transfer of money or assets to the administrator of the estate.

Letters testamentary

The document given to an executor by the probate court, authorizing the executor to settle the estate according to either a will or the state’s intestate succession laws.

Leverage

1) n. the use of borrowed money to purchase real estate or business assets, usually involving money equaling a high percentage of the value of the purchased property. 2) v. to borrow most of the funds necessary as a loan against real estate to buy other real estate or business assets. The dangers of high leverage are over-appraisal of the property to satisfy a lender, a decline in the value of the property (which may have been purchased during a period of high inflation), high carrying costs (interest, insurance, taxes, maintenance) which exceed income, vacancies and/or inability to finance improvements to increase profits. Too often the result is the collapse of “paper” real estate empires which have been created by risky leveraging.

Levy

1) v. to seize (take) property upon a writ of execution (an order to seize property) issued by the court to pay a money judgment granted in a lawsuit. The levy is actually made by a sheriff or other official at the request of the holder of the judgment (the winner in the lawsuit), and the property will be sold at a sheriff’s sale to provide money to satisfy the unpaid judgment. 2) v. the act of a governmental legislative body, such as a board of supervisors or commissioners assessing a tax on all property, all sales, business licenses or any thing or transaction which may be taxed. Thus, the county “levies” a tax on businesses. 3) n. the seizure of property to satisfy a judgment.

Lewd

Any conduct that is considered indecent or offensive. Today the term is often used when referring to pornography, prostitution and indecent exposure.

Lewd and lascivious

adj., adv. references to conduct which includes people living together who are known not to be married, entertainment which aims at arousing the libido or primarily sexual sensation, open solicitation for prostitution or indecent exposure of genitalia (which is itself a crime). Due to the tendency of judges to be overly careful in writing about moral and/or sexual matters the definitions have been cloaked in old-fashioned modesty. Today the term usually applies to pornography, prostitution and indecent acts.

Lex loci

Latin for the “law of the place.” It means local law.

Liability

1) The state of being liable–that is, legally responsible for an act or omission. 2) Something for which a person is liable. For example, a debt is often called a liability.

Liability insurance coverage

Compensation to third parties who are injured or whose property is damaged due to the fault of the insurance holder. You may have liability insurance for your car or your home, or to cover actions you take in the course of your profession. Liability polices are sometimes called “third-party policies.”

Liable

Legally responsible. For example, a person may be liable for a debt, liable for an accident due to careless behavior, liable for failing do something required by a contract or liable for the commission of a crime. Someone who is found liable for an act or ommission must usually pay damages or, if the act was a criminal one, face punishment. See also liability.

Libel

An untruthful statement about a person, published in writing or through broadcast media, that injures the person’s reputation or standing in the community. Because libel is a tort (a civil wrong), the injured person can bring a lawsuit against the person who made the false statement. Libel is a form of defamation , as is slander (an untruthful statement that is spoken, but not published in writing or broadcast through the media).

Libel per se

n. broadcast or written publication of a false statement about another which accuses him/her of a crime, immoral acts, inability to perform his/her profession, having a loathsome disease (like syphilis) or dishonesty in business. Such claims are considered so obviously harmful that malice need not be proved to obtain a judgment for “general damages,” and not just specific losses.

Liberty

n. freedom from restraint and the power to follow one’s own will to choose a course of conduct. Liberty, like freedom, has its inherent restraint to act without harm to others and within the accepted rules of conduct for the benefit of the general public.

License (of invention, copyright or trademark)

A contract giving written permission to use an invention, creative work or trademark. A license provides a way to make money from your invention or creative work without having to manufacture and sell copies yourself. By licensing an invention or work to a company, you get money (often in the form of royalties) in return for allowing the company to use, produce and sell copies of your invention or work in the marketplace.

Licensee

n. a person given a license by the government or under private agreement.

Licensor

n. a person who gives another a license, particularly a private party doing so, such as a business giving someone a license to sell its product.

Lie detector test

n. a popular name for a polygraph which tests the physiological reaction of a person to questions asked by a testing expert. A potential or actual criminal defendant or possible witness cannot be forced or ordered to take a lie detector test. Some habitual liars pass lie detector tests, and innocent, honest people fail them due to nervousness and other factors. However, law enforcement authorities usually believe the results, which occasionally exonerate (clear) a suspect. Since the results are sometimes unreliable, they are not admissible in a trial and may not be referred to.

Lien

The right of a secured creditor to grab a specific item of property if you don’t pay a debt. Liens you agree to are called security interests, and include mortgages, home equity loans, car loans and personal loans for which you pledge property to guarantee repayment. Liens created without your consent are called nonconsensual liens, and include judgment liens (liens filed by a creditor who has sued you and obtained a judgment), tax liens and mechanics liens (liens filed by a contractor who worked on your house but wasn’t paid).

Lienor

n. a person who holds a lien on another’s property or funds.

Life beneficiary

A person who receives benefits, under a trust or by will, for his or her lifetime.

Life estate

n. the right to use or occupy real property for one’s life. Often this is given to a person (such as a family member) by deed or as a gift under a will with the idea that a younger person would then take the property upon the death of the one who receives the life estate. Title may also return to the person giving or deeding the property or to his/her surviving children or descendants upon the death of the life tenant-this is called “reversion.”

Life insurance

A contract in which an insurance company agrees to pay money to a designated beneficiary upon the death of the policy holder. In exchange, the policyholder pays a regularly scheduled fee, known as the insurance premiums. The purpose of life insurance is to provide financial support to those who survive the policyholder, such as family members or business partners. When the policyholder dies, the insurance proceeds pass to the beneficiaries free of probate, though they are counted for federal estate tax purposes.

Life tenant

One who has a life estate in real property.

Life without possibility of parole

n. a sentence sometimes given for particularly vicious criminals in murder cases or to repeat felons, particularly if the crime is committed in a state which has no death penalty, the jury chooses not to impose the death penalty, or the judge feels it is simpler to lock the prisoner up and “throw away the key” rather than invite years of appeals while the prisoner languishes on death row. Opponents of capital punishment often advocate this penalty as a substitute for execution. It guarantees the criminal will not endanger the public, and the prospect of never being outside prison is severe punishment. Contrary arguments are that this penalty does not deter murderers, there is always the possibility of escape or killing a guard or fellow prisoner, or some soft-hearted Governor may someday reduce the sentence.

Life-prolonging procedures

Medical procedures used to extend the life of someone who is terminally ill or permanently comatose. These procedures may include the administration of blood or blood products, cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR), diagnostic tests, dialysis, antibiotics, surgery or a respirator. Also called life-sustaining procedures.

Limitation of actions

n. the period of time in which a person has to file with the clerk of the court or appropriate agency what he/she believes is a valid lawsuit or claim. The period varies greatly depending on what type of case is involved, whether the suit is against the government, whether it is by a minor, and most importantly, in what state or federal jurisdiction the right to sue arose. This is more commonly called the statute of limitations, which are specific periods for various claims in each state.

Limited equity housing

An arrangement designed to encourage low-and moderate-income families to purchase housing, in which the housing is offered at an extremely favorable price with a low down payment. The catch is that when the owner sells, she gets none of the profit if the market value of the unit has gone up. Any profit returns to the organization that built the home, which then resells the unit at an affordable price.

Limited jurisdiction

n. courts’ authority over certain types of cases such as bankruptcy, claims against the government, probate, family matters, immigration and customs or limitations on courts’ authority to try cases involving maximum amounts of money or value.

Limited liability

The maximum amount a business owner can lose if the business is subject to debts, claims or other liabilities. An owner of a limited liability company (LLC) or a person who invests in a corporation (a shareholder) generally stands to lose only the amount of money invested in the business. This means that if the business folds, creditors cannot seize or sell an owner’s home, car, or other personal assets.

Limited liability company (LLC)

A business ownership structure that offers its owners the advantage of limited liability (like corporations) and partnership-like taxation, in which profits are passed through to the owners and taxed on their personal income tax returns.

Limited liability partnership (LLP)

A type of partnership recognized in a majority of states that protects a partner from personal liability for negligent acts committed by other partners or by employees not under his or her direct control. Many states restrict this type partnership to professionals, such as lawyers, accountants, architects and healthcare providers

Limited partnership

A business structure that allows one or more partners (called limited partners) to enjoy limited personal liability for partnership debts while another partner or partners (called general partners) have unlimited personal liability. The key difference between a general and limited partner concerns management decision making–general partners run the business, and limited partners, who are usually passive investors, are not allowed to make day-to-day business decisions. If they do, they risk being treated as general partners with unlimited personal liability.

Lineal descendant

n. a person who is in direct line to an ancestor, such as child, grandchild, great-grandchild and on forever. A lineal descendant is distinguished from a “collateral” descendant, which would be from the line of a brother, sister, aunt or uncle.

Lineup

A procedure in which the police place a suspect in a line with a group of other people and ask an eyewitness to the crime to identify the person he saw at the crime scene. The police are supposed to choose similar-looking people to appear with the suspect. If the suspect alone matches the physical description of the perpetrator, evidence of the identification can be attacked at trial. For example, if the robber is described as a Latino male, and the suspect, a Latino male, is placed in a lineup with ten white males, a witness’ identification of him as the robber will be challenged by the defense attorney.

Link

Any component of a web page that connects to another web page or another portion of the same web page. Clicking on underlined text or a graphic image activates most links. For example, if a user clicks on the words Financial Calculator or an image of a calculator, the user will be transported to a page that contains a calculator. Links are sometimes called “hyperlinks.”

Liquid assets

Business property that can be quickly and easily converted into cash, such as stock, bank accounts and accounts receivable.

Liquidate

v. to sell the assets of a business, paying bills and dividing the remainder among shareholders, partners or other investors.

Liquidated damages

n. an amount of money agreed upon by both parties to a contract which one will pay to the other upon breaching (breaking or backing out of) the agreement or if a lawsuit arises due to the breach. Sometimes the liquidated damages are the amount of a deposit or a down payment, or are based on a formula (such as 10% of the contract amount). The non-defaulting party may obtain a judgment for the amount of liquidated damages, often based on a stipulation (clear statement) contained in the contract, unless the party who has breached the contract can make a strong showing that the amount of liquidated damages was so “unconscionable” (far too high under the circumstances) that it appears there was fraud, misunderstanding or basic unfairness.

Liquidating partner

The member of an insolvent or dissolving partnership responsible for paying the debts and settling the accounts of the partnership.

Lis pendens

1) Latin for “a suit pending.” The term may refer to any pending lawsuit. 2) A written notice that a lawsuit has been filed concerning real estate, involving either the title to the property or a claimed ownership interest in it. The notice is usually filed in the county land records office. Recording a lis pendens against a piece of property alerts a potential purchaser or lender that the property’s title is in question, which makes the property less attractive to a buyer or lender. After the notice is filed, anyone who nevertheless purchases the land or property described in the notice takes subject to the ultimate decision of the lawsuit.

Literary property

n. the writings of an author which entitles him/her to the use of the work, including publication, and sale or license for a profit to others who will then have the right to publish it. Literary property includes books, articles, poetry, movie scripts, computer programs and any writing which lends itself to publication or use. A close question can arise when a professional writer sends letters to others: are they literary property? Probably not if they were intended to be just personal communications. J. D. Salinger, author of The Catcher in the Rye, thought otherwise and sued to prevent use of his letters sent to another writer. The case was compromised and settled. To protect any literary work and profits from it, the writer should mark it as copyrighted.

Litigant

n. any party to a lawsuit. This means plaintiff, defendant, petitioner, respondent, cross-complainant and cross-defendant, but not a witness or attorney.

Litigation

The process of bringing and pursuing (litigating) a lawsuit.

Litigious

adj. referring to a person who constantly brings or prolongs legal actions, particularly when the legal maneuvers are unnecessary or unfounded. Such persons often enjoy legal battles, controversy, the courtroom, the spotlight, use the courts to punish enemies, seek profit, and pursue minor matters which do not deserve judicial attention. Some of these people are called “professional plaintiffs.”

Living will

A legal document in which you state your wishes about certain kinds of medical treatments and life-prolonging procedures. The document takes effect if you can’t communicate your own health care decisions. A living will may also be called a health care directive, advance directive, declaration or directive to physicians.

Llicense

1) n. governmental permission to perform a particular act (like getting married), conduct a particular business or occupation, operate machinery or vehicles after proving ability to do so safely or use property for a certain purpose. 2) n. the certificate that proves one has been granted authority to do something under governmental license. 3) n. a private grant of right to use real property for a particular purpose, such as putting on a concert. 4) n. a private grant of the right to use some intellectual property such as a patent or musical composition. 5) v. to grant permission by governmental authority or private agreement.

Loan broker

A person who specializes in matching home buyers with appropriate mortgage lenders. For a fee–often paid by the lender–a loan broker provides any easy and effective way to find the cheapest mortgage rates.

Loan consolidation

The combining of a number of loans into a single new loan. Consolidation typically extends your repayment period and lowers your monthly payments, thereby greatly increasing the amount of interest you pay over the life of your loan.

Locus

Latin for “place,” it means “place which” this or that occurred.

Loiter

v. to linger or hang around in a public place or business where one has no particular or legal purpose. In many states, cities and towns there are statutes or ordinances against loitering by which the police can arrest someone who refuses to “move along.” There is a question as to whether such laws are constitutional. However, there is often another criminal statute or ordinance which can be applied specifically to control aggressive begging, soliciting prostitution, drug dealing, blocking entries to stores, public drunkenness or being a public nuisance.

Long cause

n. a lawsuit in which it is estimated that a trial will take more than one day. In many courts the so-called “short cause” cases will be scheduled more quickly than long cause cases, since “short cause” cases are easier to fit into busy court calendars. If a trial estimated as a “short cause” turns out to take longer than one day, the judge may declare a mistrial and force the parties to try the case over again from scratch at a later date as a “long cause.”

Long-arm statute

n. law which gives a local state court jurisdiction over an out-of-state company or individual whose actions caused damage locally or to a local resident. The legal test is whether the out-of-state defendant has contacts within the state which are “sufficiently substantial.” An accident or injury within the state usually shows such a substantial contact. This is particularly important when a driver from one state is sued in another state for damages caused by his/her negligence there. It also can be employed if a product shipped from out-of-state fails, explodes or causes damage to a local person who sues in the state where he/she resides. The long-arm statute allows him/her to get local court jurisdiction over the defendant.

Loss

n. 1) the value placed on injury or damages due to an accident caused by another’s negligence, a breach of contract or other wrongdoing. The amount of monetary damages can be determined in a lawsuit. 2) when expenses are greater than profits, the difference between the amount of money spent and the income.

Loss damage waiver (LDW)

Rental car insurance that makes the rental car company responsible for damage to or theft of a rental car. This insurance is a major consumer ripoff, as it often duplicates coverage provided by the renter’s regular car insurance and/or the credit card she uses to rent the car. Nevertheless, hard-sell practices by rental car agents often dupe people into buying LDWs they don’t really need. LDW is also called “collision damage waiver.”

Loss of bargain

n. the inability to complete a sale or other business deal, caused by another’s breach of contract, intentional interference with one’s business, negligence or some other wrongdoing. The amount of monetary damages resulting from this loss can be determined in a lawsuit.

Loss of consortium

n. the inability of one’s spouse to have normal marital relations, which is a euphemism for sexual intercourse. Such loss arises as a claim for damages when a spouse has been injured and cannot participate in sexual relations for a period of time or permanently due to the injury, or suffers from mental distress, due to a defendant’s wrongdoing, which interferes with usual sexual activity. Thus, the uninjured spouse can join in the injured mate’s lawsuit on a claim of loss of consortium, the value of which is speculative, but can be awarded if the jury (or judge sitting as trier of fact) is sufficiently impressed by the deprivation.

Loss of use

n. the inability to use an automobile, premises or some equipment due to damage to the vehicle, premises or articles caused by the negligence or other wrongdoing of another. Examples: compensation for each day a car is out of commission during repairs or for the period of non-occupancy while a burned building is restored. A common standard of compensation (payment) is rental value of the automobile or premises, but the period of loss must be “reasonable,” meaning the damages will be limited to a period in which a person would normally and promptly proceed to have the vehicle repaired or arrange reconstruction of the building or premises.

Lower court

n. 1) any court of lesser rank, such as municipal or justice court below a superior or county court, a superior or county court below an appeals court, or a federal District Court of Appeals below the U.S. Supreme Court. 2) a reference in an appeal to the trial court which originally heard the case. Typical language in an appeals decision: “In the lower court, the judge ruled Defendant had no basis for….”

Lving trust

A trust you can set up during your life. Living trusts are an excellent way to avoid the cost and hassle of probate because the property you transfer into the trust during your life passes directly to the trust beneficiaries after you die, without court involvement. The successor trustee–the person you appoint to handle the trust after your death–simply transfers ownership to the beneficiaries you named in the trust. Living trusts are also called “inter vivos trusts.”