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New bill seeks to introduce e-wills to Florida

Earlier this year, the Florida Legislature passed House Bill 277 - the "Florida Electronic Wills Act" - which allows electronic execution of wills, including situations where the person signing the will is in one location, and the witnesses and notary are in another.

The governor of Florida vetoed the potential law, but the issues surrounding the bill remain. Video conferences would be a possible form of approval for a new will if the testator or testatrix, the person signing the will under Florida law, is not in the same place as a notary or legal counsel.

For Florida lawyers, this possibility raises the question of undue influence on the process of making a will. A person could be exerting pressure on a testator from off-camera or prevent him from receiving legal counsel while alone. Strange behavior on the recorded video conference would be the only evidence.

The bill would require video conferences to be stored by a digital "custodian," and an internet startup has already offered its services. But hacking of their database would be a concern in the future as well, and some of the related provisions may challenge existing Florida notary law.

It is always advisable when possible to work with a lawyer to write and execute your will with a clear understanding of its bequests and requirements. Oral and digital agreements may contain the material for challenges to a testator's wishes after he or she has passed away. Protecting your assets is always the best choice to ensure a financial legacy as you intend it.

Source: Florida Today, "Electronic will - 'e-wills' - are you ready for the future?," Stephen Lacey and Brooke M. Benzio, Aug. 7, 2017

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