Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Florida Governor Scott Vetoes Landmark Electronic Will Legislation

FAOn Monday, June 26, 2017, Florida Governor Rick Scott vetoed House Bill 277. The bill would have created the "Florida Electronic Wills Act." Below is the text of the letter from Gov. Scott to Secretary Detzner.  Special thanks to Tami F. Conetta, Senior Vice President, Northern Trust, for bringing this development to my attention.

 

June 26, 2017 

Secretary Ken Detzner Secretary of State
Florida Department of State
R.A. Gray Building
500 South Bronough Street
Tallahassee,  Florida 32399
 

Dear Secretary Detzner:

By the authority vested in me as Governor of the State of Florida, under the provisions of Article III, Section 8, of the Constitution of Florida, I do hereby veto and transmit my objections to Committee Substitute for Committee Substitute for House Bill 277, enacted during the 119th Session of the Legislature of Florida, during the Regular Session of 2017 and entitled:

An act relating to wills and trusts...

The bill creates the "Florida Electronic Wills Act" which authorizes the creation of electronic wills, and provides that the execution of electronic wills may be witnessed and notarized through the use of remote technology. The bill also specifies that electronic wills of residents and nonresidents  may be probated in Florida.

This bill has generated much debate among stakeholders who seek to find the right balance between providing safeguards to protect the will-making process from exploitation and fraud while also incorporating technological options that make wills financially accessible to a greater number of Florida's citizens. While the idea of electronic wills is innovative and may transform estate planning for Floridians, I believe this bill fails to strike the proper balance between competing concerns.

As Governor, I oversee the appointment of notaries public in the State of Florida and have a responsibility to ensure that notaries safeguard the most vulnerable Floridians  against fraud and exploitation. While the concept of remote notarization is meant to provide increased access to legal services like estate planning, the remote notarization provisions in the bill do not adequately ensure authentication of the identity of the parties to the transaction and are not cohesive with the notary provisions set forth in Chapter 117, Florida Statutes.

Furthermore, providing an additional Florida venue for the probate of nonresident wills based only upon the qualified custodian's location in this state could burden Florida's court system with the probate of estates that may have no Florida nexus other than that the wills were created and stored here. Additionally, if the state where the decedent is domiciled does not recognize electronic wills as a valid declaration of intent, the individual could be left intestate.

Furthermore, I have concerns with the delayed implementation of the remote witnessing, remote notarization, and nonresident venue provisions of this bill. The Legislature delayed these provisions to April 1, 2018, in order to address "substantive changes and outstanding questions" during the next legislative session. Rather than sign an imperfect bill into law, I encourage the Legislature to continue to work on answering these outstanding questions and address the issues comprehensively during the next legislative session.

For the reasons stated above, I withhold my approval of Committee Substitute for Committee Substitute for House Bill 277 and do hereby veto the same.

Sincerely,

Rick Scott
Governor

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/trusts_estates_prof/2017/06/florida-governor-scott-vetoes-hb-277.html

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Comments

Wow! That's a surprising development, and from an unexpected source. Thanks for the update, Professor.

Governor Scott points out something that is infrequently recognized: the probate process, along with all its other problems and limitations, is expensive to administer. Having a slew of new probates filed in Florida would cost significant public dollars, and without clear benefit to Floridians or the Florida legal system.

The more important issue, though, is that electronic wills would be a pretty disruptive concept. There is no doubt that we will have electronically-signed wills in the next few years, but this development points out that the move to modern technology will cause some unintended consequences. This issue will certainly be back, and soon.

Robert B. Fleming, Esq.
Fleming & Curti, PLC
Tucson, Arizona

Posted by: Robert Fleming | Jun 29, 2017 11:24:20 AM

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