Video-Message Wills

Often in films you see a situation in which a person’s entire family is gathered around a TV while a video of the deceased plays and lists off who-gets-what under their Will. According to a study conducted by Slater & Gordon Lawyers, up to 21 percent of Australians felt that disputes over their loved one’s Wills may have been avoided through the use of a letter or video [1]. The idea is a novel one, and certainly a way to add a little character to what is otherwise a fairly mournful affair – but can a video alone replace a written Will? Would this be an appropriate form of Will in Australia?

Can a Video Replace a Written Will?

The technical answer is yes, but the practical answer is no. In order for a video recording to be considered a valid Will, a judge would have to decide whether or not it constituted a good enough form to be considered an ‘informal Will’. The reluctance of Courts to allow any old document or type of media to be used as a Will is well founded. Short of the formalities and requirements that exist in normal written Wills, there are very few safeguards in place with informal Wills to ensure that the Will truly represents the desires of the Will-maker (‘Testator’), and that the Will was made in the right circumstances – these may include:

  • Whether the Testator was of sound mind at the time the video was recorded;
  • Whether the Testator was under any sort of duress or external ‘pressure’ to craft the video-Will one way or another;
  • Whether the video is a complete recording of ALL of the Testator’s wishes.

With each of these circumstances in question, the likelihood that a video Will can be contested is extraordinarily high. As legal practitioners are well aware, challenges to Wills are not uncommon no matter how tight-knit a family may be.

Would a Video be an Appropriate Form of Will in Australia?

As we’ve already explored, a video-Will’s ‘appropriateness’ ultimately falls to the decision of a judge. Given the relative ease with which a valid Will kit can, for example, be purchased at a Post Office and filled out per its instructions, the necessary precautions required to make a video Will work seem unnecessary. While there is no ‘rule’ stating that video Wills are totally invalid, the costs and extra effort required to make a valid video Will mean that it is essentially pointless.

This is not to say that a video cannot be used to help interpret the provisions of your Will – in fact, as stated above, there is general agreement amongst Australians that they may even serve to prevent disputes over a Will. While it would be difficult to point to such a video as being a ‘legal’ document for the purposes of clearing up any confusion in your written Will, their informal effect is evident.

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In light of the above, if you think that you may find yourself in a Will Dispute, over a video will message or needing to Challenge a will or an Estate dispute please do not hesitate to contact the team at Hentys Lawyers today.