Since Jan. 1, residents of Key Largo and the Keys have expressed an interest in the legal changes regarding wills. Florida is entering a whole new digital era when it comes to estate planning. A law, which went into effect on New Year’s Day, now authorizes remote notarization for the majority of legal documents. This means electronic wills will become available beginning July 1.
What Does Remote Notarization Mean?
Remote notarization means notaries can affix their signatures and seals to legal documentation signed away from their presence. The law will apply to most types of legal documents. Document signatories will no longer need to be physically present in the notary’s office. Instead, they can appear via a live two-way video link, through which they can witness someone signing their signatures. Third-party witnesses required for documents, such as wills, are also able to appear remotely.
No Lapse in Standards
One issue that has concerned residents of Plantation Key and its surroundings involves standards. If people can conduct documents entirely electronically online via a remote presence, can they maintain stringent standards? The change in legislation has caused a divide among some members of Florida’s legal community.
The Elder Law Section of the Florida Bar has touted this legislation as an affordable and convenient solution. Remote notarization gives people in more isolated communities and villages, such as Islamorada, a simple way to access legal services. There are also protections in place in the legislation to protect vulnerable elders. This should give Florida residents greater peace of mind that no standards will slip.
All the other formalities involved in will execution will remain the same. Executing an electronic will is the same as executing a regular one in Florida. The only difference is the signatories won’t be in each other’s physical presence. If the signatories and testators don’t comply with all the testamentary formalities, this could render the will invalid.
Notarizing Electronic Wills in Florida
Only specialized and trained notaries can notarize electronic wills in Florida. They will ask testators a set of prescribed questions, and they will receive answers verbally from the testator. Those questions are the same as those they would ask in person with a standard will. They include:
• Are you 18 or older?
• Are you voluntarily signing the will?
• Are you of sound mind?
• Are you under the influence of alcohol or drugs that could impair your decision-making ability?
• Has anybody influenced or forced you to put anything in the will that you don’t want to include?
Other questions specifically relate to electronic wills. These include:
• Did anybody help you to access the video conference? If yes, then who?
• Where are you now?
• Can you name everybody that you know who is in your presence now?
Will Electronic Wills Become Commonplace in Florida?
Not everyone in Florida thinks that electronic wills are a good idea. Many people in communities, such as Tavernier, Plantation Key, and Key Largo, worry about fraud, especially for older people. However, over time, electronic wills are likely going to become more widespread in Florida. Only time will tell how prepared Florida residents will be to embrace this new estate planning solution.