Robert Lamb, ‘The Power to Bequeath’

What should happen to a property holding after the death of its owner? One conventional answer to this question is that the owner can legitimately designate the beneficiary of a posthumous transfer through a written will. Yet this aspect of property ownership has received little in the way of philosophical attention or moral justification. Philosophers tend either to accept bequest as a conventional feature of property ownership or reject its legitimacy on egalitarian grounds. Dissatisfied by both approaches, this paper: (i) provides a conceptual individuation of bequest, drawing a distinction between it and other sorts of property transfer, such as inheritance; (ii) shows how the canonical, historical accounts of private property ownership have failed to justify bequest; (iii) outlines what any plausible justification of bequest will require, which I argue is an account of the posthumous interests such transfers serve; and (iv) concludes by briefly sketching the normative relevance of my justificatory account of the power to bequeath.

Robert Lamb, ‘The Power to Bequeath’. Law and Philosophy, September 2014, Volume 33, Issue 5, pp 629-654.

First posted 2014-08-06 06:16:27

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