In the golden age of the smartphone, you’re never far from a camera. This has made the sharing of videos and photos easier than ever before. Easy access to a quality camera has led many people to wonder: can I make a video will? More importantly, folks are curious about whether such a “will” can hold up in court. Given how ubiquitous technology is these days, it’s natural to have such questions!
Unfortunately, though, the law has yet to catch up with the constantly evolving digital trends. In most states, a will must be written down, signed, and witnessed for it to be considered valid. Video wills can be used to accompany the written document, but generally a standalone video account of a person outlining their estate plans will not likely stand up in court. It may, however, be used to contest a will.
Some argue that the face-to-face, personalized nature of video wills should trump the old-fashioned signing of documents. While the way wills are handled in the future may indeed change, the law is unlikely to reflect such evolving attitudes soon. For all their benefits, video wills reflect just a few moments in time. Official documentation of the person’s wishes, complete with signatures and witnesses, will likely continue to remain supreme in the eyes of the law.
That’s not to say, however, that all wills are written down all the time. Some states are willing to recognize oral wills made on a person’s deathbed. Also known as a nuncupative will, these oral statements are often made when someone is too sick to have their estate plans formally executed. Nuncupative wills aren’t accepted in every state, though, and they rarely supersede a written will (if one exists).
If you have specific instructions for how your assets are distributed after you pass, it’s worth spending a little time with an estate planning attorney to formalize your will or trust. Should you choose to make a video will in addition to the written estate plan, it may be used as visual proof that you were of sound mind when you made it. You may wish to read the will on camera and add in explanations for the reasoning behind your choices. Such a video may help clarify your wishes and settle any will contests from relatives unhappy with their inheritance.
Your legacy is important. Don’t leave it to chance by recording your wishes on a smart phone. Instead, work with an experienced estate planning attorney – it’s the best way to ensure your wishes are carried out in the way you intend.