Every state has laws that address the process of making a will, but these laws can vary from state to state. Further, each state has its own interpretation of what makes a will legally valid. Thanks to technology, creating an electronic will is possible. Some states are early adopters and have changed their statutes to recognize the validity of electronic wills.
If you live in the state of Florida, you’ll want to follow Florida’s specific requirements to make your will valid. Luckily, e-wills are valid in Florida. Trust & Will walks you through how to make an electronic will in Florida that comply with state requirements.
Does Florida allow electronic wills?
Yes, Florida does allow electronic wills. To do so, it’s recommended that you use a verified online will making service, such as Trust & Will.
The State of Florida began authorizing the use of electronic wills in June 2020. Electronic wills are wills that have been created, signed, witnessed, and stored online from start to finish. This means that there is no need to hand-write or print out a copy of a will and provide wet ink signatures in order for it to be valid. This is made possible when state governments authorize the use of electronic or digital signatures to validate a will.
Before electronic wills were legalized, a traditional will had to be made in writing. The testator (the person writing the will) had to be in sound mind, and had to have physically signed the will in the presence of two witnesses. These two witnesses also had to physically sign the will in the presence of the testator and one another.
Thankfully, Florida House Bill 483 on electronic legal documents was updated in such a way that made electronic wills possible.
What makes an electronic will in Florida valid?
Although it can be confusing, each state that has authorized the use of electronic wills have different requirements for what makes an electronic will valid. For instance, one state may permit the use of electronic signatures while requiring that the witnesses are in the same physical presence as the testator at the time of signing. Another state may not require the witnesses to be physically present and allow them to witness the execution via video conference.
Let’s take a look at Florida’s requirements to make an electronic will valid:
The testator (the person creating the will) must be at least 18 years old, or must be an emancipated minor
The testator must have testamentary capacity, meaning they are in sound mind and are capable of understanding the property they are disposing off and the related process
The testator must sign the will at the end, but it may be an electronic or digital signature
Two witnesses must watch the testator sign the will; however, they can do so using video conferencing technology
The two witnesses must then also provide their own electronic or digital signatures; the testator must see the witnesses sign the will
All signatures must be signed under the supervision of a trained, certified, online notary
The will must be given to a qualified custodian
Typically, a will does not have to be notarized in order for it to be valid. In fact, as of May 2021, Louisiana is the only state that requires a will to be notarized. Notarizing a will is typically an optional practice that can help speed up the probate process of validating a will. It can make the will “self-proving,” which means the probate court will not have to call in witnesses to testify on the validity of the will.
Trust & Will now offers probate help. Learn more about our different plan option, today.
However, the requirement changes when it comes to electronic wills. In Florida, an electronic will must be notarized in order for it to be legally valid. A trained and certified online notary (or e-notary) must supervise all parties involved (the testator and their two witnesses) to ensure that they properly sign the will electronically. The notary will also verify the identity of all parties involved.
Last but not least, a new aspect of making wills valid if they come in electronic form is the requirement of the use of a qualified custodian. This is either an incorporated business or a resident with a primary residence in Florida. This entity must have a system for maintaining and storing electronic records, including electronic wills. The will must be stored with this custodian along with an audio-visual recording of the notarization session.
How can i create my electronic will in Florida?
Mentioned earlier, an e-will can be created easily by using an online service provider. For instance, Trust & Will partnered up with Notarize (an online notary) to make the creation of a digital will possible, and we even aided in the creation of the first electronic will in U.S. history!
You can also seek the assistance of a Florida-based estate planning attorney if you feel uneasy about creating an electronic will on your own. We provide a list of recommended estate planning attorneys in Florida here.
With these tips in mind, here are the general steps to creating an electronic will in Florida:
Make an inventory of your personal assets, property, and belongings.
Spend time thinking about who you choose as your beneficiaries and how you would like to distribute your property.
Write out your will in electronic format by using a word processor, online template, or online will creation service.
Read through your document, double-check your work, and seek the advice of support technicians (if working with a service provider) or attorney if needed.
Identify two witnesses who can verify that you are in sound mind and will witness the execution of your will.
Set up an appointment with an online notary for the signing of your will. This step may require multiple actions, such as uploading your will and verifying your and your witnesses’ identities.
Electronically sign your will in the presence of your witnesses and online notary using live, audio-video conferencing technology (as guided by your online notary).
Have your witnesses electronically sign your will as guided by your online notary.
Store your electronic will with a qualified custodian.
Don’t forget to review your will on a regular basis and revise it as needed!
Eligibility and Important Considerations for eWills
Florida is one of the pioneers to have authorized the use of electronic wills in the U.S. The technology that makes the creation of electronic wills possible has been around for many years, such as electronic signatures, online notary services, and video conferencing services. However, states are just now beginning to adopt updated statutes that allow for the valid use of electronic wills.
Because the authorization of e-wills is happening at the state level instead of the federal level, residents should be careful to pay attention to the specific requirements of their state. For instance, an electronic will in Florida could look entirely different from an electronic will in Arizona. Rather, there are variations on what makes an electronic will legally valid from state to state.
In Florida, it’s important to remember that you must have two witness signatures plus notarization. Luckily, Florida allows the use of an online notary to make this process relatively easy. Further, Florida requires that you store your e-will through a digital custodian. Be sure to satisfy these requirements to make sure your electronically-created will is actually valid and will hold up in court.
Trust & Will serves as a one-stop-shop for anyone looking to create an electronic Will that is valid if they live in a state that acknowledges the use of e-wills! We partnered up with an online notary service, Notarize, to make your electronic will creation a seamless process with Trust & Will!
[It’s important to note that given the dynamic nature of eWill legislation, the availability and specific requirements for eWills vary from state to state. Trust & Will is working to make our platform compliant with eWill regulations in the states where they are available. For the latest updates, be sure to check out our eWill page.]
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Trust & Will is an online service providing legal forms and information. We are not a law firm and we do not provide legal advice.