A video will is a will where the decedent has expressed their wishes, intent, and details in video format. It may or may not be accompanied by a written document also. So is a video will acceptable in California?
What does California Law require for a valid will?
There is one main rule with wills – it must be in writing. Video wills thus are not recognized at all. The California probate code, which contains all the laws regarding wills, existed long before video became available. As a result, the law focuses on written wills, and is silent on video or other formats of technology.
California does allow, however, a handwritten will, which they call a “holographic will”. (No a holographic will is not a will via hologram). That can be written on a wall, a napkin, or anywhere and still be valid. A video will can be used to support a written will, but any will in California must be in writing to be valid.
What states do allow a video will?
Currently (in 2017), about 11 states accept oral wills under certain circumstances:
- New York,
- North Carolina,
- Texas and
The State of Washington also accepts them, but only from members of the United States military. Video wills are called
“nuncupative” wills or are also often called deathbed wills, referring to the testator speaking his bequests and his wishes to witnesses, usually because he has no opportunity to make a written will.
Some states require that the will later be committed to writing by one of the witnesses. In states that accept nuncupative wills as legal, a video will, recorded by the testator as he spoke, would be legal if all the other criteria of the statutes for nuncupative wills were met. However, the criteria can be narrow and exacting and usually require that the testator passes away within a limited period of time after making an oral will.
The audio portion of the information is more important than the video portion, so “video will” is somewhat misleading. As suggested above, an audio recording might work also to convey the information required in other states.
What do you recommend regarding a video will?
Even if not allowed under California law by itself, that doesn’t mean that a video will is a bad idea. We recommend a written will under all circumstances, preferably prepared by our expert Orange County Will and Trust Lawyers, or at least properly signed and handwritten if necessary. But videotaping the creator of the will reciting the will provisions and signing the will is also a good idea, to show mental and physical capacity and condition at the time of the signing.
Contact us if you have any questions about a video will.