Reading time: 3 minutes

Having a valid will is an essential component of comprehensive estate planning. It’s something everyone should think about – whether you’re nearing retirement age or whether you have just finished university. Succession law is a relatively settled area of law. However, a recent case hauls succession planning issues into the 21st century with the Supreme Court of New South Wales now accepting a will made by video as valid. This article will look at the possibility of a video wills under the current Australian law for creating informal wills.

Is a video will possible?

An elderly woman sat in her kitchen, carefully choosing her words of motherly exhortation and delivering her last words and testament to a camera.

In Re Estate of Wai Fun CHAN, Deceased [2015] NSWSC 1107, Wai Fun’s last word and testament, made by video, was accepted as a valid will by the Supreme Court of NSW. Wai Fun wanted to divide her $93,000 estate to her eight children. She wanted to give the two daughters who had cared for her in her final years a greater share; however, another daughter had persuaded her not to do so in the will.

Two days later, ‘acutely conscious of her mortality’, Wai Fun changed her mind and clearly recorded her last wishes on video. Wai Fun knew that a video Will might be problematic. However “she was not deterred. She expressed a strong desire to speak to her children in making her intentions known to them after her death” Justice Lindsay said.

What constitutes a valid will?

To be valid, a will must be in writing and signed by the will-maker, as well as witnessed in the presence of two or more witnesses present at the same time (section 6 Succession Act 2006).

If a will does not satisfy these requirements, it can be an ‘informal will’ under Section 8 of the Succession Act.

Is a video will an informal will?

An informal will is a ‘document’ which purports to state the testamentary intentions of a deceased person.

In Re Estate of Wai Fun Chan, Justice Lindsay held that a video was a ‘document’ (defined under section 3(1) of the Succession Act). Therefore, Wai Fun’s video will could be an informal will and acceptable to the Supreme Court.

Why it’s probably not a good idea to rush out and grab the video camera

One of the most important reasons for having a valid Will is that it significantly simplifies matters for your family and friends when you are no longer around.

If you have an informal Will, there are significant transaction costs to satisfying the court that legislative requirements have been met. These costs are met by the estate and may be an unnecessary financial burden, as the case of Re Estate of Wai Fun Chan demonstrates. All good reasons to spend the time in making a valid will – a process that with the growing availability of ‘will kits’ and other online resources is getting increasingly simpler.

LegalVision cannot provide legal assistance with this topic. We recommend you contact your local law society.


Redundancies and Restructuring: Understanding Your Employer Obligations

Thursday 7 July | 11:00 - 11:45am

If you plan on making a role redundant, it is crucial that you understand your employer obligations. Our free webinar will explain.
Register Now

How to Sponsor Foreign Workers For Your Tech Business

Wednesday 13 July | 11:00 - 11:45am

Need web3 talent for your tech business? Consider sponsoring workers from overseas. Join our free webinar to learn more.
Register Now

Advertising 101: Social Media, Influencers and the Law

Thursday 21 July | 11:00 - 11:45am

Learn how to promote your business on social media without breaking the law. Register for our free webinar today.
Register Now

Structuring for Certainty in Uncertain Times

Tuesday 26 July | 12:00 - 12:45pm

Learn how to structure to weather storm and ensure you can take advantage of the “green shoots” opportunities arising on the other side of a recession.
Register Now

Playing for the Prize: How to Run Trade Promotions

Thursday 28 July | 11:00 - 11:45am

Running a promotion with a prize? Your business has specific trade promotion obligations. Join our free webinar to learn more.
Register Now

Web3 Essentials: Understanding SAFT Agreements

Tuesday 2 August | 11:00 - 11:45am

Learn how SAFT Agreements can help your Web3 business when raising capital. Register today for our free webinar.
Register Now

Understanding Your Annual Franchise Update Obligations

Wednesday 3 August | 11:00 - 11:45am

Franchisors must meet annual reporting obligations each October. Understand your legal requirements by registering for our free webinar today.
Register Now

Legal Essentials for Product Manufacturers

Thursday 11 August | 11:00 - 11:45am

As a product manufacturer, do you know your legal obligations if there is a product recall? Join our free webinar to learn more.
Register Now

About LegalVision: LegalVision is a commercial law firm that provides businesses with affordable and ongoing legal assistance through our industry-first membership.

By becoming a member, you'll have an experienced legal team ready to answer your questions, draft and review your contracts, and resolve your disputes. All the legal assistance your business needs, for a low monthly fee.

Learn more about our membership

Chloe Sevil

Our Awards

  • 2020 Innovation Award 2020 Excellence in Technology & Innovation Finalist – Australasian Law Awards
  • 2020 Employer of Choice Award 2020 Employer of Choice Winner – Australasian Lawyer
  • 2020 Financial Times Award 2021 Fastest Growing Law Firm - Financial Times APAC 500
  • 2020 AFR Fast 100 List - Australian Financial Review
  • 2021 Law Firm of the Year Award 2021 Law Firm of the Year - Australasian Law Awards
  • 2022 Law Firm of the Year Winner 2022 Law Firm of the Year - Australasian Law Awards