A Note From the Beyond: Video Wills

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 What Is Included in a Will?

Generally, a will includes a list of the assets you wish to distribute to family or friends once you pass away. Here is a brief description of what can be included in your will:

  • Real estate property;
  • Stocks, investments, mutual funds, and bonds;
  • Life insurance policies;
  • Savings and retirement accounts and;
  • Other property, such as vehicles, jewelry, and family heirlooms.

Drafting a will properly and listing all the necessary items will prevent future disputes. Creating a will is crucial if you have strong opinions about how your property should be distributed and to whom. Without a will, your assets will most likely be divided according to local and state laws. This process is lengthy and can become a challenging process quickly.

Therefore, plan and consult with an estate lawyer instead of having the court make these decisions for you. Decide on who the beneficiaries will be and assign an executor for your will. Set up a meeting to learn about the will process and determine your options.

What Is a Video Will?

If you want to create a legally binding video, it must be written down, signed, and witnessed. Without these components in the video will, it will not be valid. But a video will be useful in many ways. It can be a method to communicate to your loved ones why you leave certain items to some and not others.

Furthermore, video wills can indicate sound mind and intent in estate planning. They can also supplement a formal, legally binding paper will. For the will to be established, it must be in harmony with the local state laws and guidelines.

Video wills are considered filmed declarations of the testator sharing their final wishes for allocating their estate’s assets. These videos generally describe assets, the beneficiaries to whom they will be divided, and the name of an executor who will administer the estate through probate.

How Does the Signing Work in a Video Will?

Since a video will be unconventional, so will the signing. A video will prevent allegations that you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs when you signed your will. However, wills, in general, can cause tension between families. Sometimes certain family members may not approve of the distribution of the wealth. They may disagree about who receives what and when. Therefore, to avoid these future frictions and instigate litigation, it is best to plan to consult with a lawyer to take proper measures.

Recording a video that shows you and your witnesses signing is crucial for communicating your intentions for your estate planning. If the video demonstrates that you are reasonable, understand the terms of your will, and use the will to communicate your intentions, it will be more likely to prevent future conflicts.

Someone attempting to contest a will must provide convincing proof that you were unaware of who your nearest family members were, were unaware of what you possessed, or were improperly influenced by someone seeking to benefit. You can further explain your actions in the video and have a signing ceremony to carry out the will accordingly. Although you may meet all the qualifications for a valid will, having it in a video form usually creates some issues. Remember that your will is legally valid if it meets the local state regulations regarding wills and their procedures.

Some states have different requirements, and it is important to fulfill them to ensure that your will is legally protected. For instance, some states mandate that two or more adult witnesses must be present, you must inform them that the paper is your last will, and they must sign it. Many states require that everyone sign the document in the same room. Capturing this on the video can serve as strong evidence for the validity of the video will.

What Are the Benefits and Drawbacks of a Video Will?

Every type of will has some advantages and some disadvantages associated with it. Below is a summary of the advantages of having a video will. This sort of will establish that the testator is of sound mind and not unfairly influenced when they signed the will.

A video serves as an explicit expression of your intentions regarding the distribution of your estate. There can not be any second opinion regarding your wishes since the video will be able to establish that. It can further clarify any misunderstandings about who will receive the assets and gifts in the estate. The recording can also consist of you and your witnesses signing your will. Lastly, the record will assist you in formalizing the estate plan for all the families and friends in providing details on the distribution of the wealth.

Even though you can voice your wishes regarding your estate, the video will is not considered legally binding. It must satisfy all the local laws regarding estate planning and go through the probate process.

A probate court, a bank, or any other organization with assets under your name will not accept video. It does serve as a sufficient legal basis to bind others to its terms. Additionally, videos are not damage-proof and can be deleted too.

If you choose a video will, it will most likely add to a formal legal paper prepared by an estate planning attorney. Besides, you would need to take into certain aspects for the video will be considered additional evidence:

  • Utilizing high-quality resolution cameras to capture every moment and identify the people in the video;
  • Keep the background noise minimal to none;
  • Speak clearly and loudly;
  • Video recording cannot be changed and;
  • Some states mandate you to be sworn in by someone legally authorized to administer oaths.

For the court officials to be properly identified, they must announce themselves clearly on camera before delivering the oath. Furthermore, you need to have the critical information that will be the terms of your will.

You must include the names of your beneficiaries, mention the recording’s date, time, and location, as well as the names and addresses of the will’s witnesses if they are not present at the taping.

Lastly, a will, whether written or recorded, is not considered your sole estate planning option. Various trusts can achieve similar goals in protecting your estate and distributing it according to your wishes. There are several types of trusts for your needs. Generally, a living trust is a legal document in which you decide whom to leave your property. The primary advantage of having a trust is that it does not need to go through the probate process, unlike a will. This allows your family to avoid the hassle and expense of the probate process.

However, a will is legally useful in many ways, as mentioned above. Guardianships are utilized in wills, not trusts. When parents need this crucial process to accomplish their needs, the will comes into play. You are unable to utilize your living trust for these matters. Lastly, a will may also be used to forgive debts due to you, something a trust agreement cannot accomplish.

When Do I Need To Contact a Lawyer?

Although video wills are not as common, they often communicate someone’s last wishes regarding their property distribution. These serve as additional evidence for the sound mind of the one drafting the will. As stated earlier, they are not solely the basis of validating a will.

Jurisdictions vary in their stance and legal viability. If you have any questions about this, you can reach out to a local will lawyer to assist you.


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