In order for probate to be applied for, or administration of a deceased estate to proceed death must be established. The production of a death certificate indicating the date, time, and cause of death is sufficient. In some instances a Zombie would be legally dead but in others…
The word “zombie” originated in Haitian voodoo defining both reanimated dead bodies and living people under the control of a powerful sorcerer.
Zombies have an extensive literary heritage, but are traditionally thought of as mindless, unthinking henchmen under the spell of an evil magician such as Haitian zombies, and the Inferi created using necromancy. The modern Zombie is a self-motivated human flesh eater, hungry for brains in a dystopian zombie apocalypse characterized by the Night of the Living Dead, and The Walking Dead, with varying degrees of mobility, cognition and memories of their lives prior to zombification.
Zombies can be further classified by the method of their creation: Dark magic, viruses, radiation, biochemical agents, or extra terrestrial phenomena are considered as causes of zombification. In some cases, transmission is through close personal contact with a zombie, in much the same way that you might catch the ‘flu; in others, zombie contact is not necessary.
In some cases people must die before becoming a zombie while others appear to be afflicted and seamlessly transition to the zombie state. Often there seems to be a direct correlation between the cause of zombification and the nature of the zombie created. The legal status of the person who is afflicted by zombification depends upon whether or not it occurred post mortem.
In Australia the legal definition of death, is defined as:
a) Irreversible cessation of all function of the brain of the person; or
b) Irreversible cessation of circulation of blood in the body of the person.
Therefore zombification by contracting a virus doesn’t meet the legal definition of death; there is no loss of all brain function, or cessation of circulation of blood. If due to some sort of zombie apocalypse there was a broadening of the definition of death to include:
c) Irreversible personality change, physical disability; or
d) Irreversible decrease in brain function
this may bring unintended consequences. A stroke victim who suffers a subsequent loss of speech, mobility and significant personality change could fall under this extended definition of death. Similarly a person with Alzheimer’s disease would be considered to be dead under the extended legal definition. Interestingly a person in a persistent vegetative state is considered to be alive under the present definition but a Zombie that has been reanimated would be considered to be dead.
Importantly where does that place those who have been reanimated by necromancy? The question to be answered is: has the persons brain function; or circulation of blood been reversed? Or, as in the case of the Inferi and Bernie Lomax a corpse that has become a puppet through Dark magic. Conversely, where a person mutates into a zombie following infection like in the Walking Dead the person would be considered to be alive under the present legal definition.
If a reanimated person returns as a zombie and is considered to be alive, should the original person be considered dead? We discussed this earlier regarding cryogenic preservation and technological singularity. Clearly a person who has had their body cryogenically preserved post mortem in the hope that future medical technology can revive them is not alive by any legal definition. However the mere revival of people who are clinically dead such as those resuscitated following near death experiences does not make them zombies no matter how much their life changes following this event.
Perhaps its time to create or update your Will because the chances of becoming a zombie are pretty slim.