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What is a Video Will?

Estate Planners | Monday, July 25th, 2011

Customarily, when a person creates a last will and testament, or will, the will is drafted as a formal written document with specific language that is valid for the jurisdiction where the will is written. This will formally and legally dictates how the testator (the person making the will) wishes to dispose of and distribute their property and assets when they die. However, more and more folks are going for a video will in lieu of a traditional will. The video will is simply a live, video-taped accounting of the person’s wishes – their will. The video will does not replace a written will, it merely supplements the will.

Not just a product of the Silver Screen and Hollywood, the video will is an option for those who want to put a personal touch on the traditional “reading of the will” to their heirs and beneficiaries. Some folks find that a video will allows them one final opportunity to interact (if from the Great Beyond) with their loved ones and to explain to them “in person” why they chose (or chose not) to make certain gifts and so on in their will. In other instances, a person might choose to make a video will so that there is no doubt in anyone’s mind as to their intentions – the execution of the will can play out on video for all to see. This is a tactic that is used to discourage a disgruntled beneficiary from deciding to challenge the will as the video can provide proof, in living color, that the person who was making the will was both mentally competent and that the formalities involved in executing the will were, in fact, observed. After all, “seeing is believing”, and in this instance, a picture can be worth a thousand words (or thousands of dollars or more). The use of the video will to supplement the traditional, written will document is a viable means of reducing the likelihood that the will is contested.

During the video-taping process, the testator will read the will in full. After the legalities have been read for the camera, the testator might then explain why they decided to give certain things to certain beneficiaries, although they are not required to do so.

Like the written will, it is important that the video will is stored away in a safe place so that it is preserved over the course of time. Many people choose to place their will (and their video will) into a safe deposit box, or leave them with their estate planner or attorney until such time that they pass away.

Each state has particular laws when it comes to the validity of the video will, and not all states recognize a video will as legally binding. Nonetheless, the video will is a good way to supplement a standard, written will so that there is evidence as to the mental capacity of the testator, and to affirm the validity of the execution of the written will. Talk to an estate planner to find out if your estate can benefit from a video will alongside your regular will.

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