For this month’s e-law item, I went to the old standby, YouTube, to see what was out there. What I found was one of the most disturbing videos in the sense that the person actually believed it constituted a legal estate plan that the courts would follow. Watch it Here

Eric Badour is getting on a plane from Los Angeles to Tokyo, *suddenly* realizes that he has not put in an estate plan in place, and he is now worried about what would happen to his property if the plane crashes. So while he is waiting at the gate, he calls his friend to tell him what should happen to his things if he dies. To document his “Last Will and Testament” he has his friend Brian Ohmshocker (sp?) use a video camera to tape Brian’s cell phone as Eric recites his desires. And apparently to “witness” the Last Will and Testament, Brian puts the video on YouTube.

Where to begin? First, probate courts do not care what the deceased person said, what witnesses said, or what a person may have wanted had they bothered to put their desires in writing. It is only in a few specific instances that a court will listen to testimony about what the deceased wanted to have happen. One instance is to explain language in a document that is vague or open to interpretation. Another is whether or not a person intended to revoke their estate plan. And even in those instances it is already stretching things to take that testimony in court when someone heard the wishes face to face, let alone on a cell phone.

In order to have a valid and legal Last Will and Testament in North Carolina, it has to be in writing, signed by the Testator (the person whose Will it is), the testator has to be at least 18 and of sound mind, it has to be witnessed and signed by two people in the presence of the testator and each other, and preferably all of their signatures have been notarized. These are also the same guidelines in California.

So what would happen to Eric’s assets if he passed away? Despite Eric’s belief that he had a valid estate plan when he got on the plane, he didn’t have a valid estate plan at all. This means that in the state where Eric is a resident, the rules for distribution of property for a person without a valid estate plan will take over. If you watch the video, it is more about a person named Garrett Hunter not getting anything. Well, if Garrett Hunter is to receive anything under state law, then he would get it no matter what Eric said 30 seconds before boarding his plane. (Which is the case if you listen to the background audio at the end of the video clip.)

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