To encourage more people to engage in estate planning and communicate how they intend to maintain, protect and distribute their assets upon incapacitation or death, the Florida legislature in 2019 approved the use of electronic wills and certain other legal documents. While Florida allows some electronic notary services to begin as early as Jan. 1, 2020, it does not expect this convenience to be applicable to estate planning documents until July 1, 2020.
Under the law, Florida residents will have the ability to create and execute wills and trusts even when they are unable to physically meet in person with their advisors and notary publics. The new law requires parties who are not in the same physical location to execute, notarize and witness last wills and testaments with the aid of secure audio-visual technology, such as Skype, so that participants are able to see, hear and communicate with one another. In addition, the law mandates that notary publics receive specific training to execute wills remotely while also requiring state-approved qualified custodians to receive required authorization to store those documents electronically.
It is estimated that more than half of all American adults over the age of 55 do not have legally binding estate planning documents that detail their post-mortem wishes. Instead, when a person dies without a valid will, he or she leaves these decisions to the probate courts, which do not have the benefit of knowing the decedents’ unique family and business circumstances or his or her wishes for the distribution of his or her personal and business assets. Without a will or a tax-efficient estate plan, you are essentially spending your living years working to build wealth and create a legacy that can end the moment you pass away or you become incapacitated.
While the Florida Electronic Wills Act may make it easier for people to get their financial affairs in order, individuals should not overlook the importance of careful planning under the guidance of experienced financial advisors and legal counsel.
About the Author: Lee F. Hediger is a co-founding director and chief compliance officer with Provenance Wealth Advisors (PWA), an Independent Registered Investment Advisor affiliated with Berkowitz Pollack Brant Advisors + CPAs, and a registered representative with Raymond James Financial Services. For more information, call (954) 712-8888 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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