Attested Wills

An attested will is prepared with an estate planning professional’s assistance. Attested wills are usually clear, legally correct, and “self-proving,” insofar as they do not require additional verification in court.

California’s probate code does not permit alternate will formats, including audio recordings or video footage. So, while a video could supplement a will or serve to clarify the testator’s intent, it cannot legally replace a will.

Should You Still Record Your Will Signing?

Since California does not recognize video wills or video codicils, there is rarely any need to record a so-called “video will.” However, if an attorney believes their client’s estate could be jeopardized by a probate challenge, they might recommend that the testator read their will or state their wishes before a camera. The footage could then be used to persuade a court that the testator was of sound mind and understood the implications of their estate planning decisions.

The Disadvantages of Videotaping an Estate Plan

An individual attorney might ask their client to read their will on tape if they believe the estate could be contested after the testator’s death. However, creating a video recording of an estate plan is not necessarily a surefire way to protect a legacy from litigation. In some instances, a recording could actually impede the estate’s ability to defend itself from an unfounded challenge. For example, if a disinherited beneficiary alleges that the testator was coerced into amending their will by another party, they could point to the video as evidence, claiming that the testator appears anxious, aggrieved, or otherwise “unnatural.”

Similarly, some testators might wish to give an in-depth explanation about their reasons for disinheriting a loved one or making another difficult estate planning decision. If they create a video that has not been scripted by an attorney, or they offer any off-handed remarks, they risk contradicting themselves and presenting the person challenging the will with more opportunities to use the writer’s own words against the estate.

So, even if a video recording could serve some estate planning purposes, you should speak to an attorney before reaching for your camera.


Philip J. Kavesh
Nationally recognized attorney helping clients with customized estate planning guidance for over 40 years.