Have you ever thought, ‘When I die, I’ll leave a video for my loved ones’? More and more people are preparing a video in which they read their will and explain why they’ve left certain belongings to some and not others. The recording can show the execution of the will and can be compelling proof that you were mentally competent, but is it a good idea?

Let’s explore some of the pros and cons of a video will.

Pros:

A video will can head off claims that you weren’t of sound mind or were being unduly influenced in some way when you signed your will. A video will help in the event that someone is disappointed and decides to hire a lawyer to contest your will. The video can also show you and your witnesses signing your will. In which case, clearly demonstrates that you were rational, knew the contents of your will and were expressing your own wishes.

A video will can supplement your formal estate plan: For example, if you want one child to serve as executor, a video will is your chance to say so. Your other children or family won’t be left to wonder about your actions. If you want to get into detail, a video will can also express how you’d like your family to divvy up items of sentimental value.

Cons:

(This is a big one.) Although you may use your video will to convey how your family should distribute sentimental items, you need to know that your wishes are not legally enforceable. Meaning your video won’t be accepted by a probate court, a bank or any other institution that controls assets in your name. Only a formal paper will is legally enforceable.

Videos don’t last forever and therefore, are subject to damage.

If you opt for a video will, consider it as an add-on to a formal, legal, paper will, filed by an estate planning attorney, and remember these tips:

  • Use a quality camera that clearly identifies your face.
  • Speak clearly without distortion and eliminate as much background noise as possible.
  • Keep the video-captured area at medium close-up.
  • The video cannot be edited and must be submitted with any kind of technical data necessary to play it back.
  • Some states want you to be sworn in by a person authorized by law to take oaths.
  • Prior to administering the oath, any officers of the court have to identify themselves on camera.
  • Mention the date, time and place of the recording prior to recounting your last wishes and the recorded names of your beneficiaries, as well as the names and addresses of the will’s witnesses if they’re not present at the taping.
  • The video Will should run without interruption.

Remember, it’s still the law that to be valid, a Last Will and Testament must be on paper and signed. If you have nothing but a recording of the deceased person’s last wishes, you’re unlikely to have a Will that will hold up in court.

Finally, keep in mind that a will, in either written or video form, is not the only estate planning tool you have. Various trusts can also help make sure your estate is left according to your wishes.