Is the Video Will Legal?

Many say, in these enlightened times, shouldn’t it be legal to make our wills by digital or at least video means?

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

The Video Will

The video will. ‘Is a video will legal?’
The other common form of the question is: ‘Can I write a video will?’.
So, let’s see what a video will is, its pros and cons, how to use it, and how not to use it.

You might, like many people, say: ‘In these enlightened times, surely, we can write our wills electronically, digitally and by video’.
We’ll see…As an added bonus, once we’re through with the walkthrough, I’ll tell you about a privileged will.

‘The formalities set out in the Wills Act do really matter.’

Lord Justice Jacobs, Parks V Clout 2003

What is a Video Will

In this day and age, surely, we shouldn’t have to use a quill and a pot of ink to write our wills, well…. Let’s look at two foundational points about what the law says would make a will valid. And, we’ll see what a video will is.

In the first, there isn’t agreement on what constitutes a video will, the structure of what such a will might be, and, how it would be stored.
And, let’s think of it for a second or three, what technologies would be acceptable.

When some twenty years ago, before we all had the beginnings of a recording studio in our pockets, some fellow who’s name escapes me, dreamt up the silk knickers project – he tried to make a big thing of the video will…

As an aside, a silk knickers project is one so profitable that all of your family go about in silk underwear… forever.

One of the blows that killed the venture was the fellow’s inability to proffer a sensible rejoinder to the statement: ‘if you’d made a video will for someone thirty or forty years ago, we’d be scrabbling round for machines on which to play the wills’.

I mean: what would the format have been, eight millimetre, VHS, Betamax, floppy disk?

How to Use a Video Will

So we have a format challenge, a software issue and horror upon horrors, a hardware problem. That’s bad news out of the way. Here’s the good news. I have used the video will – I’ve used it twice this year.  You’re probably thinking: why only twice.

Here’s why….
A video recording of the testator’s intentions, explaining the reasoning behind the decisions in the is a useful tool.
Sometimes, the testator can simply read the detail of the will and provide commentary on each of the clauses of the will.
This could prove the testator was of sound mind.

Contests of a Will

When the terms of a will are questioned, the plaintiffs throw all manner of mud at the wall in the hope, to be sure it’s hope rather than expectation, in hope that something, anything, would stick.
A video of the will maker talking lucidly about the contents of the will, would add to proof that the person making the will has no lost his or her mind.

Temptation of Ease of Recording of a Video Will

For good or for ill, wills are governed by an Act of Parliament that’s almost 200 years old, The Wills Act of 1837.
Our concern here is section 9 of the Act. I have put a link to section below.
The relevant clause of section four is… that the will must be in writing and signed by the testator, or by some other person in his presence and by his direction.

And it must be signed by two witnesses.
Remember this is only in England and Wales. The rules are different in Scotland.
There we have it, for a will to be valid, it must be in writing. It must be signed.
How do you sign a video?

So, in short, there’s no such thing as a video will.
Although there is no such thing as video will, we should not confuse the concept of a video or digital will on the one hand with video witness of wills or the other.

But, as the man on TV used to say: wait, there’s more.

The digital or video will, is not useless, in fact is very useful as we’ve seen just then.
We also talked just a minute ago about film formats.
Two things we are in danger of being seduced by: the great ease and low cost of making videos, after all there’s a phone in your pocket or handbag.
All you have to do is press record.

So… this leads me to think you’re thinking of making a DIY will.

Don’t.

Holographic Wills

Let’s talk of the holographic will.
Now a holographic will sounds modern.
A holographic will is simply a handwritten will without signatures. Not acceptable in this country.
The usual form of the question is: Are video wills valid?
Now, let’s turn the question in its side.
What the questioners mean is: Would a video will be accepted to probate in the absence of an old-fashioned document written on paper and signed by two witnesses?.

The answer is a big fat ‘no’.

So, if you’re thinking of a digital or video will as a substitute for your paper will, please DO NOT. This would result in intestacy.
While the video recording is a useful adjunct to a will, a useful tool in the will draughtsman’s tool box, it is just that, a tool: however, there is no such thing as a video will. So please do not look to make one.

Is the Video Will Legal?
We’re Bound to do Things By The Book

Privileged Wills

You might remember we encountered privileged wills.
Privileged wills are the exception to the requirement that a will be in writing and signed by two people.
A privileged will, also called a soldiers and sailors will is one where the will is not in writing, but it orally delivered – I suppose we can imagine one private in a foxhole saying to another: ‘if I die, make sure everything goes to my wife’.

Two quick things: when the relevant law was enacted, in 1837, there were no aeroplanes never mind an air force, and the letter of the law such that only men were granted the disposition.
In practice all armed forces personnel have the right to make a privileged will.
Although, I would advise they didn’t exercise that right.

Witnessing a Will By Video

Before we finish, I’ve told you in forty-five thousand different ways there’s no such thing as a video will. There is however the ability to witness a will by video or remote means.

Avoid the Myths & Half-Truths – Get the Book

Now, the notion of making a will by video is one of the many, many myths and half-truths and lies out there about writing your will.
You and I have a common interest, that your will be valid so that your wishes are carried out. 
So, I have something for you.
I’ve been around so long, I wrote the book – no mere figure of speech, I wrote the book Maximum Inheritance.
Maximum Inheritance is a paperback book – none of this ebook nonsense. It’s a collection of anecdotes and thumbnail sketches that would give you a clear insight on how to write the will that’s perfect for you, make sure it’s valid, and that your money stays in your family forever.

To get your free copy, simply click the link below.