Modern technology has altered many things in our society. Can technology improve the area of estate planning? How about an electronic or video will or trust? A client recently contacted our office to ask if he could videotape his father who was in failing health explaining orally how he wanted his assets to be distributed after his death and would that be honored as a will. The short answer is no.
A video will is created when the testator reads his will or states his wishes in front of a video camera. A video will is not recognized as a valid will in any state. A video will can be helpful where there might arise a question later as to the testator’s capacity however it cannot act as a replacement for a written will signed in the presence of witnesses. If it is going to be used, it should be as a helpful addition to your estate plan, not a replacement for a written will or trust. Use of a video will should probably only be done upon the advice of an experienced estate planning lawyer so that it is done correctly and doesn’t cause more problems that it solves.
What about an electronic will? Nevada is the only state that recognizes electronic wills. The Nevada statute requires that the electronic will must contain the date and the testator’s electronic signature which could be a signature by fax, typing a name at the end of an e-mail, or including a personal identification number. In addition the will must include at least one authentication characteristic of the testator, which could be a digitized signature, voice recognition, fingerprint, retinal scan, or other type of authentication. The statute also requires that the electronic record containing the will be created and stored in a manner such that there is only one authoritative copy of the will in existence.
It will interesting to see if either the video will or the electronic will catch on in this decade. Maybe some things shouldn’t go the technology route and estate planning may be one of them.