Florida Ready to Implement Electronic Wills
FLORIDA GOVERNOR RICK SCOTT VETOED THE DIGITAL WILLS ACT ON JUNE 26, 2017.
We seem to do everything online, even the most important and vital aspects of our daily lives. We can obtain almost any document, manage financial transactions, obtain government identifications, and sign legally binding contracts all with the click of a button. So why can’t we do our will online?
Electronic Will Act Passes
Florida, like most states, has a number of technicalities required to make a will valid, most of which require actual witnesses and notaries. That is, the process is one that requires the presence of actual human beings. This derives from the acknowledgement of how important a will is, and the understanding that because if there is a dispute the person making the will won’t be around, we need people to verify what the person making the will wanted or didn’t want.
But things are changing, and in 2018, Florida will begin to allow electronic wills. Florida’s Electronic Wills Act will allow people with simpler wills to create legally enforceable documents online. Witnessing of signatures as required by law can be done through remote video camera.
There are a number of safeguards to make sure that those who make wills aren’t taken advantage of by the new law. All recordings of will signings must be saved, preserved and stored. A number of questions must be answered by those making the will, on the video, affirming that there is no coercion or duress.
Concerns Still Exist
Still, many are concerned that there is the chance of fraud with the new law. Nevada, the only other state with such a law, requires retinal scans, fingerprints or facial recognition software to verify identity, while Florida’s law does not.
The Florida Real Estate and Probate Section of the Florida Bar has expressed its own concerns about the legislation. One concern is that witnesses only need to be in video or audio communication with the person making the will—the witnesses don’t have to be physically present. This could make it harder for those witnesses to be found and to testify in the event of a will dispute.
It is also less likely that these witnesses will have any personal relationship with the will maker, and thus, may be less qualified to provide assistance in the event of a will dispute.
Of course, the ease of making an electronic will may also discourage people from consulting with attorneys. The age of “do it yourself” legal services often can lead to problems, as many people with supposedly simple wills or estate plans actually have more complex issues than they think.
There are also concerns that even the best software won’t be able to identify subtle or complex familial issues that could affect wills, or to interpret the wishes of someone making a will and spot potential legal issues that may have to be dealt with.
There could still be changes before the law becomes effective, but it’s always best to get an attorney to draft estate and will documents. Contact Tampa business attorney David Toback to discuss a comprehensive estate plan for your family.