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Big estate-planning change coming to Florida law

We are in the last days of 2019, so brace yourself for the annual media tradition of looking back at the biggest stories, tragedies and surprises of the year. While those kinds of articles can be useful and even entertaining, our goal in this installation of our Brevard County legal blog is to look ahead a big change in Florida law that is just days away.

Our state’s Electronic Documents Act takes effect on the first day of the new year. It will transform the way we execute and save estate planning documents by eliminating needs for pens, papers and getting the testator, witnesses and notary public together in the same room at the same time.

A testator (the legal term for the person who makes a will) can from Jan. 1, 2020 onward electronically sign wills, trusts and advanced directives while the notary and witnesses gather electronically with Skype, FaceTime and similar software.

It should be noted that Florida’s Electronic Documents Act doesn’t eliminate the traditional and reliable process of putting pen to paper, but simply gives people another option.

The electronic option is going to put notaries to the test; they will need to be trained to facilitate electronic will-signing and be able to determine if the person signing the will or trust or advanced directive is “vulnerable” under Florida law.

Notaries will be required to ask several blunt questions of testators, including:

  • Asking if they’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs that impairs the ability to make decisions
  • Asking if they have a physical or mental condition or disability impairing the ability to perform the normal activities of daily life
  • Asking if they need help daily care

If the testator answers “yes” to any of the questions, the electronic signing will be stopped because the testator will be considered vulnerable under state law, meaning that witnesses will need to be physically present when a will or other estate planning document is signed.

If you have questions about how the change might impact you or a loved one, contact a Brevard County attorney experienced in estate planning.

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