Florida Legalizes Electronic Wills

In some of the biggest estate planning news Florida has had in a while, electronic wills are now slated to become legal in the state on January 1st, 2020. An electronic will functions just like a traditional will except it is created, edited, signed, and authorized electronically, as the name implies.

Citing concerns of exploitation and fraud, former Governor Rick Scott vetoed a bill passed by the Florida Senate in 2017 that would have made electronic wills legal. It was not until the 2019 Legislative Session that a similar bill was passed by the Florida Senate and signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis. The new bill contained additional protections for the most vulnerable citizens in our state thanks to the help of attorneys in the Florida Bar’s Elder Law Section.

Increased Protections Built Into Florida’s Electronic-Wills Regime

Unless the creator of the will is considered a vulnerable adult – such as an individual who is losing cognitive abilities due to old age or a mental health condition – the witnessing of a will can be done remotely if:

  • The individuals are supervised by a notary public;
  • The individuals are authenticated and signing as part of an online notarization session in accordance with s. 117.265, F.S.;
  • The witness hears the signer make a statement acknowledging that the signer has signed the electronic record; and
  • In the case of an electronic will, the testator provides, to the satisfaction of the online notary public, verbal answers to the following questions:
    • Are you 18 years of age or older?
    • Are you of sound mind?
    • Are you signing this will voluntarily?
    • Are you under the influence of any drugs or alcohol that impairs your ability to make decisions?
    • Has anyone forced or influenced you to include anything in this will which you do not wish to include?
    • Did anyone assist you in accessing this video conference? If so, who? Where are you? Name everyone you know in the room with you.

All of these requirements serve as a safeguard against potential exploitation or fraud that could jeopardize an electronic will.

Have questions about electronic or traditional wills? Call (727) 280-6837 and talk to a St. Petersburg estate planning attorney from Finley Williams Law, PA today!

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