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Florida Electronic Wills Act Could Affect Your Future Estate Planning

Earlier this year, the Florida legislature passed House Bill 277, titled the “Florida Electronic Wills Act.” This law would allow for electronic execution of wills, including circumstances in which the person who signs the will (the testator) is in one location and the witnesses and notary are in others. Governor Rick Scott vetoed the bill in late June, but it’s likely not the last iteration of this bill we’ll see.

If a version of this bill ultimately does become law, it would allow for the online creation of wills that can then be remotely signed via secure connections. Any individuals who are to sign the will must video conference in, and that video conference must be recorded, time stamped and electronically stored along with the signed document. During the conference, the testator will also be asked certain questions to prove he or she meets the conditions for creating a will.

A “qualified custodian” would be placed in charge of storing the will somewhere in Florida. This custodian cannot be a beneficiary — at least not under the bill as it was most recently written.

Measure is subject of great debate

Proponents of the bill believe electronic wills would allow less wealthy people to have more access to creating wills. Opponents, however, believe the video conference idea does not have enough safeguards in place to protect potentially vulnerable individuals. They say, for example, that there could be a person off camera exerting undue influence.

Plus, opponents say online will creation already exists, and there are many low-cost notary and witness services. Thus, the legislation may be redundant. Finally, the hacking and altering of wills is a big concern, as is the conflict between certain notary provisions in the will and existing Florida law.

For further guidance on how changes to the law could affect your estate planning process, contact a skilled Florida will and trust attorney with The Charles Law Offices.

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