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Tanya Marsh, J.D.

Professor of Law

Marsh uses her legal expertise in real estate and banking to frame her research in the legal treatment of human remains and burial.

Biography

Tanya Marsh is the leading authority on funeral law and cemetery law, an expertise that is paired with her extensive legal knowledge and research in real estate, banking, and business. Because her scholarly interests are broad in scope, Marsh has contributed to various research topics, such as the regulation of the American funeral industry, the legal treatment and disposition of human remains, and property interests in burial places as well as Read More »

Tanya Marsh is the leading authority on funeral law and cemetery law, an expertise that is paired with her extensive legal knowledge and research in real estate, banking, and business. Because her scholarly interests are broad in scope, Marsh has contributed to various research topics, such as the regulation of the American funeral industry, the legal treatment and disposition of human remains, and property interests in burial places as well as community banking, commercial real estate, and the Dodd Frank Act. She is the creator and author of the podcast, Death, et seq., which explores the complex relationship between the living, the dead, and the law.

Media Appearances

More States Legalize Dissolving Bodies in Water

U.S. News

March 12, 2020

"A lot of funeral and cemetery law honestly is a gray area," says Tanya Marsh, a law professor specializing in funeral law at Wake Forest University. States, not the federal government, typically decide these laws. So proponents of alkaline hydrolysis, mainly people in the funeral industry, must go to every state legislature for legalization. Western, Great Plains and Southern states have been more amiable toward alkaline hydrolysis than ones in the Midwest and Northeast, Marsh says.

Easing Funeral Planning Into The Digital Age

PYMNTS.com

February 25, 2020

“People are changing their preferences in respect to how they want to memorialize and dispose of the dead at an incredibly rapid rate,” noted Tanya Marsh, a law professor at Wake Forest University who specializes in funeral and cemetery law. “The funeral industry is a service industry, and they want to give people what they want, but they also have very strongly ingrained ideas about what the right thing to do is. So, there can be a conflict between changing social norms of what people want and what the industry is willing and able to give them.”

The movement to bring death closer

New York Times

December 19, 2019

A symbiotic relationship has developed between our cultural assumptions about what constitutes the “right” funeral and the funeral industry’s interests, notes Tanya Marsh, a professor at Wake Forest University School of Law, who specializes in funeral and cemetery law. “We were complicit in handing over control of this sphere of life to a profit-making industry. If we don’t like it, we can take it back.”

Eco-friendly cemeteries? More people preferring 'green' over standard burials

Washington Post

November 30, 2019

“The bottom-line issue in pretty much every state is the statutes don’t contemplate this kind of burial ground,” said Tanya Marsh, a professor at the Wake Forest University School of Law who has written books about laws pertaining to the dead. “It’s probably not that the legislators wanted to make things difficult; it just didn’t occur to them that everybody wasn’t going to set up a cemetery in what they conceived of as a regular cemetery.”

Dis-Embodied: The Legal Challenges Of Our Death-Denying Culture

WUNC FM

October 31, 2019

"In the United States, the dead have rights. The dead have the right to a decent burial, and then they have a right to [be] undisturbed … So you have these really strong rights, and then you have some duties and obligations put on the living in order to protect them. ...So we have this real ongoing tension between these real, strict rigid protections of the dead. And then the practical reality that we don't always live up to that."

Funerals -- and death -- are changing as Americans try to control what happens when they die

NBC News

August 20, 2019

Tanya Marsh, a professor who teaches a course on funeral and cemetery law at Wake Forest University, argues that practices like this, which may seem "new age" to outsiders, are in fact a return to the past. “For most of human history people have taken care of their own dead. People are trying to return to a neo-traditional way,” Marsh says. “What is artificial is what we’ve been doing for the last 100 years.”

Articles

Who will bury Charles Manson?

While the cultural impact of Charles Manson’s life and horrific actions will not soon be forgotten, the pressing concern right now is how we’ll choose to acknowledge his death. More specifically, what will happen to his remains? It’s a question that often comes up when a notorious criminal dies. Osama bin Laden, for example, was buried at sea, reportedly in part so that a grave wouldn’t become a shrine for terrorists.

Life after death: Americans are embracing new ways to leave their remains

That is changing. As a scholar of funeral and cemetery law, I’ve discovered that Americans are becoming more willing to have a conversation about their own mortality and what comes next and embrace new funeral and burial practices.

When Death and Dirt Collide: Legal and Property Interests in Burial Places

Burial places are real property, but they are a special kind of real property. Thus, while the law with respect to land perpetually dedicated to the disposition of human remains is rooted in the general common law of property, there are unique doctrines that apply only to burial places.

A New Lease on Death

Changes in the American funeral industry have sparked a new category of land use — a business where funeral goods and services are sold, but human remains are not embalmed, stored, or displayed.

Reforming the Regulation of Community Banks After Dodd-Frank

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act builds on decades of “one-size-fits-all” regulation of financial institutions, an ill-conceived regulatory strategy that puts community banks at a competitive disadvantage as compared with their larger, more complex competitors.

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More Information

Areas of Expertise

  • Property Law
  • Real Estate
  • Business Law
  • Real Estate Law
  • Cemetery Law
  • Funeral Law
  • Burial Law
  • Human Remains
  • Dodd Frank
  • Community Banks
  • Contracts

Education

Harvard Law School: J.D., Law

Indiana University: B,A,, History and Political Science

Links

Contact

Broadcast Studio

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