Often people come into our offices in Oklahoma or Kansas asking about video wills. While a video will can play a role in your estate plan, they are not as useful as many people think. In fact, video wills are not legally recognized and must be used with caution. To explain why this is and why you might want a video will anyway, let us look at some important issues.
What are Video Wills?
You’ve probably seen video wills in movies or TV shows. Essentially, a video will is a video (or motion picture) recording of someone expressing his or her last wishes. In some instances, it is simply a recording of a person (a testator) signing his or her last will and testament in the presence of witnesses.
Can I Use a Video Will Instead of a Written Will?
No. Video wills are not legally recognized in Kansas or Oklahoma as valid substitutes for an attested (written) last will and testament. Even though state laws can differ slightly on what a person needs to do to make a legally enforceable will, there are some standard requirements.
You can only make a will if you are an adult and if you have the mental capacity to make decisions. Your will must be in writing. You have to sign the will and do so in the presence of two capable adult witnesses who then sign the document.
If you don’t follow this procedure when you make your will, a court will not accept it as a legally enforceable expression of your wishes. Should you choose to express your wishes solely through a video, a court will not accept the video as your will. Instead, your property will be divided in accordance with the inheritance laws that already exist in your state.
Why Might I Want To Use a Video Will?
Even though video wills cannot serve as substitutes for a written wills, they have their place in estate planning. For one, a video will can serve as evidence that a testator had the requisite mental capacity at the time of signing the will. If someone later challenges the will, the court can look to the video to help it determine if the testator was capable.
Second, and perhaps more important to those making wills is the ability the video will gives you to to leave a more personalized statement. It’s often difficult for people to express everything they want to say solely through writing. A video will gives you the chance to say the things that are important to you and to leave a more personalized message to your loved ones.