Is a video will a legal document?

Published 07 Dec 2016

We've all seen them in films: the dramatic unveilings of the deceased's final wishes in video form. It seems like a personal way to bring both closure to the remaining family friends as well as a more interesting way to tell people what they'll can expect to receive from an estate. However, while it seems like a good idea on paper - and on film - is it actually a valid method of distributing an estate or could it be used as a basis to contest a will?

What must a will possess to be valid?

When a will is passed on to executors and assets are distributed to beneficiaries, people who aren't satisfied with the process or with what they received are going to start looking for reasons that the will may be considered invalid. In many cases, this will start with the basics of the document, namely, whether it meets minimum requirements.

Put simply, for a will to be valid it has to be in writing and have been signed by the person who created. In a world that is becoming reliant on digital backups and alternatives to printed documents, these regulations can be important ones for people looking to contest a will. However, as these instances are judged on a case-by-cases, it doesn't necessarily mean there is no place for the video will.

Are these rules black and white?

The short answer is no, as there are cases where a formal and valid will cannot be produced or never existed in the first place. In these instances, an informal will can be offered instead if the judge rules that there is another document that the deceased intended to serve the purpose of a will.

This process is not as clear cut as that involving a formal will, and may require the court to take into account the manner in which the document was produced and any other statements the deceased made that could influence the way the document is acted upon.

Can a video will be an informal will?

There have been cases where video wills have been the evidence in contesting wills claims. In one instance in 2015, this claim was successful, as it was clear to the court that the deceased fully intended the recording to represent her wishes with regards to her estate. The court also agreed that a video recording meets the criteria of a document.

To speak to experts about your specific contesting wills case, get in touch with the team and Gerard Malouf and Partners.

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