Apr 17

Florida Probate Rules Updated to Recognize Electronic Wills and Notarization

Florida Electronic Notarization

On January 16, 2020, The Florida Supreme Court approved amendments to The Florida Probate Rules. These were “fast-track” amendments based upon changes to The Florida Statutes during the 2019 legislative session. For probate and guardianship attorneys, the big change is the recognition of electronic notarization which became effective January 1, 2020 and the recognition of electronic wills, effective July 1, 2020. Although these statutes reflect rapidly-changing technology, they do require strict procedures to ensure the validity of the notarized document or will, and to ensure the integrity of documents preserved in electronic format. The new procedures will introduce third-party vendors into the process due to the requirements for preserving electronic copies of wills and certain other estate planning documents, as well as the requirements imposed upon electronic notaries. While this initially appears to add convenience, time will tell how well these procedures work and how the added technology requirements will affect the overall cost of estate planning for those who utilize the new procedures.

Here’s a link to the rule changes:

https://efactssc-public.flcourts.org/casedocuments/2020/21/2020-21_petition_74875_appendix2drules.pdf

The changes are primarily updates to the committee notes following each rule. These changes are invaluable because the cross-reference each rule with other rules and statutes that need to be considered when applying a particular rule. The provide a great research tool.

The amendments also recognized that electronic documents, such as wills, could be submitted in electronic format, as long as the original format complied with the laws for electronic notarization and electronic wills. The electronic document and the video of the signing must be preserved in a tamper-proof format. For wills signed by ink on paper, the original must still be preserved and filed with the clerk upon the death of the person making the will.