History Lab – In Case I Die in This Mess

Death, money and family are the key elements in any last will and testament. But they make for a killer cocktail that unleashes a special force not present in any other part of the law. 

The last will and testament is a heavily rule-bound document, and one many people avoid. But what happens when you take a DIY approach and try to make your own will, without a lawyer? Can an unsent text message be considered a will? What about a brief note, scribbled out moments before death? 

I wrote and produced this episode of History Lab that looks at how the law determines your last wishes through some truly unusual cases. Whether it’s for reasons of urgency, eccentricity or expediency, courts around the world regularly have to make calls on the wishes of the dead, especially those who have winged it. But how does the law know it’s getting it right and what does it mean for loved ones left behind?