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Proposed Bill Would Make Executing Estate Documents Easier


The ramifications of the documents created to form the foundation of an estate plan typically extend to encompass many people and central legal matters that govern a person’s life and property. Because of the importance of the information and authority these documents contain, they must be executed according to certain guidelines in order to be valid and enforceable. Thus, just filing out and signing the forms without including the necessary formalities will not be enough to be recognized by courts, financial institutions, medical facilities, and other relevant entities. These formalities can seem burdensome and perhaps an unnecessary complication, but they are in place to ensure that the documents are executed legitimately and not as a result of fraud or forgery. However, acknowledging that technology has drastically changed the way legal documents are created, stored, and verified, a bill working its way through the Florida Senate would simplify one inconvenient aspect of this process – notarization.

Formalities for Estate Documents

Wills are some of the most common estate planning documents one will see, and everyone should have at least a simple version to avoid being subject to intestacy laws, which distribute assets according to blood relation. The rules to execute a valid will include putting the will into writing, signing it in front of two witnesses, and having the witnesses sign in the presence of one another. No notary is needed to create a valid will, but if a person wants to self-prove a will, which speeds up the probate process by avoiding the need for a court to contact the verifying witnesses to accept a will, an affidavit must be signed in front of a notary that attests to the identity of all signers. In addition, powers of attorney, which are commonly used to transfer authority to handle a person’s financial affairs in the event of incapacity, must also be notarized, with the notary acknowledging the signature of the person creating it. Two witnesses must also sign the document.

Proposed Bill

Because of the steps involved in executing a will, it takes a certain amount of logistical coordination and time to get everyone together to sign, witness and notarize the necessary documents. In an attempt to streamline this process, the Florida Senate is currently considering a bill that would allow a notary to sign a will electronically – in other words, outside the presence of the person executing the document. Opponents of the bill argue the current form would do nothing to protect vulnerable adults, such as the elderly, from exploitation, but the bill does include an exclusion for this group, and the new proposed method would include a two-way video recording of the event so officials could ask questions and verify the identification and understanding of the participants. The person executing the document does not need to be physically located in the State at the time of the electronic notarization, but must consent to the laws of Florida related to the act as controlling the document’s enforcement. Similar legislation has failed in the past, so it is unknown if the present version will succeed, but at some point, the reach of technology will impact the creation of an estate plan.

Get Legal Advice

Estate planning has multiple aspects that are all important to creating a sound structure for you and your family. An experienced Clearwater estate planning attorney will ensure that you know about each feature of estate planning, which will keep your documents valid and relevant over the long-term. William Rambaum counsels Florida seniors on the optimal estate planning options for each situation, and are ready to help you get your finances and end-of-life issues in order. Contact the Oldsmar estate planning firm at (727) 781-5357 to schedule an appointment.




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