Definition of DEATH in Black's Law Dictionary 4th Edition – Legal dictionary – Glossary of legal terms.

Definition of DEATH

The cessation of life; the ceasing to exist; defined by physicians as a total stoppage of the circulation of the blood, and a cessation of the animal and vital functions consequent thereon, such as respiration, pulsation, etc.

This is "natural death," in contradistinction to "civil death," and, also, to "violent death," See those titles, infra.

Civil death. The state of a person who, though possessing natural life, has lost all his civil rights, and as to them, is considered as dead. Quick v. Western Ry. of Alabama, 207 Ala. 376, 92 So, 608, 609. At common law, the extinction of civil rights and relations, so that the property of a person declared civilly dead passes to his heirs as if dead in fact. Holmes v. King, 216 Ala. 412, 113 So. 274, 276.

The "civil death" spoken of In the books, is of two kinds : (1) Where there is a total extinction of the civil rights and relations of the party, so that he can neither take nor hold property, and his heirs succeed to his estate in the same manner as if he were really dead, or the estate is forfeited to the crown. (2) Where there is an incapacity to hold property, or to sue in the king's courts, attended with forfeiture of the estate to the crown. Of the first kind, are the cases of monks professed, and abjuration of the realm; all the other cases are of the second kind. Strictly speaking, there but two cases of civil death; those of a monk professed, and an abjuration of the realm. In re Erskine, C.C.A.Ind., 1 F.2d 149, 152. See, generally, Chit.Crim.Law 723; Co.Litt. §§ 133, 199, note; Littleton § 200; 1 Bl.Comm. 132; Avery v. Everett, 110 N.Y. 317, 18 N.E. 148, 1 L.R.A. 264; In re Donnelly's Estate, 125 Cal. 417, 58 P. 61, 73 Am.St.Rep. 62.

In New York a person sentenced to imprisonment is thereafter deemed civilly dead under Penal Law § 511. See Platner v. Sherwood, 6 Johns.Ch., N.Y., 118; Troup v. Wood, 4 Johns.Ch., N.Y., 228, 260,

Death-bed. In Scotch law. A state of sickness which ends in death. Ersk. Inst. 3, 8, 95.

Death-bed deed. In Scotch law. A deed made by a person while laboring under a distemper of which he afterwards died. Ersk. Inst. 3, 8, 96. A deed is understood to be in death-bed, if, before signing and delivery thereof, the grantor was sick, and never convalesced thereafter. 1 Forbes, Inst. pt. 3, b. 2, c. 4, tit. 1, § 1. But it is not necessary that he should be actually confined to his bed at the time of making the deed. Bell.

Death duty. A charge or toll which the state makes upon the right to transmit or to receive property on the death of the owner. In re Heck's Estate, 120 Or, 80, 250 P. 735, 736. The usual name in England for an inheritance tax.

Death warrant. A warrant from the proper executive authority appointing the time and place for the execution of the sentence of death upon a convict judicially condemned to suffer that penalty.

Death watch. A special guard set to watch a prisoner condemned to death, for some days before the time for the execution, the special purpose being to prevent any escape or any attempt to anticipate the sentence.

Natural death. A death which occurs by the unassisted operation of natural causes, as distinguished not only from "civil death," but also from "violent death" (q. v.)

Presumptive death. That which is presumed from proof of a long continued absence unheard from and unexplained. The general rule, as now understood, is that the presumption of the duration of life ceases at the expiration of seven years from the time when the person was last known to be living; and after the lapse of that period there is a presumption of death. Smith v. Knowlton, 11 N.H. 197; Chamb. Best Ev. 304, note, collecting the cases; 4 U.C.Q.B. 510; 1 Greenl. Ev. § 41; 5 B. & Ad. 86; Maley v. Pennsylvania R. Co., 258 Pa. 73, 101 A. 911, L.R.A.1918A, 563. In most of the states the subject is regulated by statute.

The better opinion is that there is no presumption as to the time of death. Davie v. Briggs, .97 U.S. 628, 24 L.Ed. 1086; Chamb.Best Ev. 305; 2 Brett, Corm 941; 2 M. & W. 894. But it has been held that death is presumed to take place at the end of the seven years' absence; Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Engineers v. Nash, 144 Md. 623, 125 A. 441; Apitz v. Supreme Lodge Knights and Ladies of Honor, 274 Ill. 196, 113 N.E. 63, L.R.A.1917A, 183; or at a time of peril, Conner v. New York Life Ins. Co., 166 N.Y.S. 985, 179 App.Div. 596.

Violent death. One caused or accelerated by the interference of human agency ;—distinguished from "natural death."

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