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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Law : Law

Undergraduate Course: Death and the Law (LAWS10238)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Law CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis is an interdisciplinary course on relations between law and death. Students will gain an understanding of the principles, policies and values underlying the law dealing with death, including those regulating the transfer of wealth on death, and reflect on the impact of such principles and policies, including on matters of intergenerational equality.

The course will not merely focus on what legal systems understand to be formally part of their respective succession laws, but will extend to the laws dealing with the donation of organs and tissues, burial matters, digital assets and the regulation of posthumous life more generally. It will further extend to instruments, including lifetime transfers, that lie outside the domain of succession but that fulfill succession objectives. In other words, the course invites students to take both a holistic approach as well as a functional perspective.

Students will study when human beings are dead for the purposes of the law and how far private autonomy reaches not just in determining their own life and afterlife, but also in determining the life of others. They will further study how wealth is distributed on death, to whom, why, and by what means, but also how socio-economic factors have influenced the development of the law in this area and what challenges succession law is facing in light of technological as well as demographic changes.

This course will explore the basic principles and foundations of the 'law of the dead'. It would complement rather than repeat material from other courses on the law of succession.
Course description This course will be taught in 10 seminars. Below is an outline of the provisional teaching programme:

Seminar 1: Introduction;
Seminar 2: When are we dead for the purposes of the law?
Seminar 3: Scope of private autonomy in the context of death ;
Seminar 4: Rationales of private succession to wealth;
Seminar 5: The law of intestacy - policies/trends and issues;

Seminar 6: Testamentary freedom and its restrictions;
Seminar 7: Influencing the dead;
Seminar 8: Influencing and controlling the living;
Seminar 9: Posthumous rights/harms;
Seminar 10: Wealth transmission and intergenerational inequality.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesSuccession and Trusts (LAWS08130) and Property Law (LAWS08133) or equivalent
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2022/23, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  32
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 176 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) The course will be assessed by way of an essay (100%).
Feedback Not entered
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Students will obtain a critical understanding of the core principles and debates surrounding matters of death and the rationale underpinning current laws. They will further develop experience in applying comparative methodologies to an area of private law that is traditionally said to defy comparison.
  2. Students will develop the skills of working independently in the critical analysis of legal materials across different jurisdictions. They will become familiar with reading primary case law and statutory sources but also secondary literature across the common and civil law traditions. They will further become familiar with readings drawn from history, economics, sociology and anthropology.
  3. Students will develop an autonomous engagement with primary and secondary common and civil law sources. They will further develop an ability to engage with theoretical questions, as well as with policy debates.
  4. By interactive discussion, students will learn the value of shared dialogue to the formation and refinement of their thinking. The will also develop an ability to formulate considered questions, to articulate connected explanations, and a sensitivity to terminological issues in the field.
  5. Confidence in handling and discussing complex legal materials across civil and common law jurisdictions, and, sophisticated use of primary and secondary materials written, and the ability to articulate their meaning both orally and in writing.
Reading List
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Keywordslaw,death,succession,private law
Course organiserProf Alexandra Braun
Tel: (0131 6)51 5560
Course secretaryMrs Suzanne Strath
Tel: (0131 6)517000
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