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Are video wills valid in New York?

Cameras on smartphones arguably changed the world. As a new form of communication, we can send an infinite number of pictures to show what we mean beyond the spoken word. We can also take and send videos of fun, tragic and even intimate moments. We can also record events that have particular legal significance.

The making and signing of a will is one of them. New York law allows for nuncapative, or oral wills in limited circumstances. Members of the military and similar forces in armed combat as well as mariners at sea are eligible to make nuncapative wills. Often referred to as “deathbed” wills, these oral promises can be used to demonstrate a person’s intent to distribute property and assets according to the person’s wishes.

Like traditional, formal wills, nuncapative wills must fulfill the statutory requirements in order to be valid.

Indeed, this does not prevent a person from making a video recording demonstrating his or her desires for the distribution of their property at death. Instead of serving as a formal will, a nuncapative will could be used as evidence to clarify a person’s intentions or to show that the testator (the person making the will) was of sound mind while making the will.

It remains to be seen whether the scope of eligible people will be expanded to use nuncapative wills in the future. In the meantime, if you have questions about using video evidence in a will contest, an experienced probate law attorney can advise you.

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