Florida has passed the Electronic Documents Act (HB 409). Signed by Gov. DeSantis on June 7, 2018, it allows for electronic signing, witnessing and notarization of wills and other estate planning documents, and outlines strict standards that must be followed during the process.
The law becomes effective January 1, 2020. Update: Law becomes effective July 1, 2020. The Florida Department of State is now developing specific procedures for implementation. However, the text of the bill provides a good overview of how the process will work:
A secure video link such as Skype will be necessary. Neither the signer, witnesses or notary need be in the same physical location. Witnesses must actually hear the testator acknowledge his/her signature. Notaries will be required to have mandatory training, and must ask the signer a series of specific questions. “Qualified custodians” will be authorized to store the video of the signing, and the will itself. The electronic will can be admitted to probate if filed through the e-filing portal.
These new procedures are not intended to replace traditional, in-person signings, but only to give the public another option..
Under the new law, there are certain documents – for example, a Durable Power of Attorney that gives the agent certain “super powers” – that cannot be signed electronically. Those powers, as written on the document, must be physically initialed by the person granting those powers. The law also prohibits individuals identified as “vulnerable” from signing documents remotely. Their signatures must be witnessed in person.
Proponents of the bill hope that this new option will induce more people to put their wishes in writing. Critics of the bill have expressed concerns about several issues, among them cybersecurity. Those concerns had led to Gov. Scott’s veto of an earlier version of the bill in 2017.
For clients who are unable to come to our office, this option could be a real convenience. However, details have not yet been provided to the legal community. Once they are, we will share the information with you. Check this website and our monthly e-newsletter for updates. (You can sign up for our monthly e-newsletter here.)
Read the text of HB 409 here.