A lot of people who want to create an estate plan in the St. Lucie County, Florida area have questions about creating a video will. Video wills have often been portrayed on television and in movies, and some people mistakenly believe that they can make a valid last will and testament simply by recording their wishes. A video will can serve a purpose when you create an estate plan, but there are several things you will need to know about them before you decide to make one.
What is a video will?
A video will is simply a video or motion picture recording of you creating, executing, or reading aloud the terms of, your will.
To make that will legally valid, the testator–the person making a will–has to sign the document, do so in the presence of two witnesses, and have the witnesses sign it as well. This signing of the document is known as execution of the will, and it is often accompanied by the notarization of a self-proving affidavit by a licensed public notary. (We’ll talk more about self-proving affidavits in our next blog in this series.)
Also, some testators choose to record themselves reading the terms of their wills aloud, or reading a message to their family and friends that they want played after they die.
What are the legal requirements for a video will?
There are none, because a video will is not a legally-recognized estate planning tool. In order to make a valid last will and testament, you have to create a document that meets some specific legal standards. The document must, for example, include your signature, as well as the signature of two witnesses.
If you make a video of yourself speaking your last wishes, or do anything else that doesn’t meet the will requirements established by Florida law, you have not made a legally valid last will and testament.
If video wills are not legally valid, why would anyone want to make one?
Even though video wills are not legally valid substitutes for attested (written and signed) wills, they can serve several useful purposes.
First, a video will can be used as evidence that a testator was mentally sound at the time of making the will. In order for a person to make a will, that person must be competent at the time of the will’s execution. If someone challenges the will on the basis that the testator wasn’t capable, the video can be used to prove otherwise.
Second, if there’s ever a questions about the execution of the document, your representatives can similarly use the video to prove that you took all the steps requires to make a legally valid will.