Posted: October 18th, 2013 | By: Lisa Snedeker
As the fall air turns crisp and Halloween approaches, many Americans decorate their homes with images of ghosts, crypts, coffins, and zombies.
“While we embrace cartoonish or creepy symbols of death, most modern Americans reject as morbid frank discussions of actual death and the disposition of human remains,” explains Wake Forest Associate Law Professor Tanya Marsh, an expert on the law of human remains. “Americans tend to deal with death on an emergency basis, when it is looming or has already occurred. As a result, the American law regarding the status, treatment, and disposition of human remains is a neglected area of the law.”
At Wake Forest Law, however, this important legal area is definitely not neglected. Marsh has launched The Funeral Law Blog to address myriad legal issues that arise in this area. And next spring, Marsh will teach Funeral and Cemetery Law, the only course of its kind currently being taught in an American law school.
“While funeral and cemetery law may appear to be a quirky niche, it’s actually a very practical area of law for students to learn,” she explained.
“This is an important subject from several perspectives. We are all likely to interact with funeral homes and cemeteries during our adult lives. Understanding the underlying laws will help students make better choices as bereaved consumers.
“As lawyers, there are many opportunities to provide legal services to the industry or to those who interact with it. The American funeral and cemetery industries generate annual revenues of $20 billion per year. Market participants range from international companies like SCI and Batesville Casket, to a large number of small, family-owned businesses. These are highly regulated industries and learning the complex legal framework surrounding them can allow students to provide valuable counsel.
“Finally, our collective choices about the disposition of human remains have significant economic and environmental consequences. Americans should better understand the choices that we have under our current laws, as well as the impact of those choices.”
In addition to Funeral and Cemetery Law, Marsh teaches Property, Real Estate Transactions, a Seminar on Law, Business, and the Economy, and Professional Development. Her scholarship addresses commercial real estate, the regulation of community banks, and the laws regarding the status, treatment, and disposition of human remains. A graduate of Indiana University and Harvard Law School, before joining the Wake Forest faculty in 2010, Marsh clerked for the Indiana Supreme Court, practiced commercial real estate and corporate law with two large Indianapolis law firms, and spent five years as in-house counsel with a public shopping center REIT. Marsh is involved in the leadership of the American Bar Association’s Real Property Trust & Estate Law Section and is a frequent contributor to that section’s CLE offerings. She also writes for The Huffington Post and PropertyProf Blog (http://lawprofessors.typepad.
Marsh can be reached for interviews at 336.758.6059 or firstname.lastname@example.org.