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Florida Electronic Wills Act Passes

Posted on: June 2nd, 2017
new lawThe Florida Electronic Wills Act takes effect on July 1, 2017, pending the governor's signature. Its enactment not only provides for how digital wills will be regulated in probate, but also expands options for witness signatures and execution by the testator.

The Act does not modify regulatory procedures associated with paper wills. Instead, the new law addresses wills that are expressly prepared and executed in digital form. Individuals may elect to create an electronic will to reduce the likelihood of fraud. Electronic wills also have a minimal risk of being lost or misplaced, as may occur with outdated paper wills. Individuals with special needs or circumstances that prevent them from meeting at an attorney’s office can also benefit from the convenience of virtually executing a will.

A key item to note in the forthcoming legislation relates to the origination of the electronic will. The Act recognizes all electronic wills, whether created in or out of state, in Florida probate as long as the will met the requirements of the jurisdiction wherein it was created and the testator was a resident of Florida upon their death.

Executors administering estates in Florida on and after July 1, 2017 that involve an electronic will have the option to file a paper version of the electronic will with the probate court. Per the Act, the paper version “shall constitute an ‘original’ of the electronic will.”

When creating a paper will in Florida, individuals bearing witness to the testator’s execution of the will are required to be present. One of the provisions in the new electronic wills law allows for virtual attendance of witnesses, which separately takes effect on April 1, 2018, several months following the Act’s effective date. This remote witness option is for electronic wills only and may only be implemented if several strict statutory requirements are satisfied, including use of a secure real-time connection. Testators in the end stages of life are ineligible for this option.

As the use of electronic wills expands, questions about this growing area of law may likely surface during estate administration. Schedule time with a Florida probate attorney to review concerns, and subscribe to our blog for updates on changes in the law.
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