The power to bequeath
Law and Philosophy
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.
“The final publication is available at Springer via http://dx.doi.org10.1007/s10982-013-9195-0”.
Vol. 33, Issue 5, pp. 629 - 654