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Estate Planning Can’t Be Done Remotely in Florida


Adjusting to life and work matters during a quarantine can be daunting. Children are learning online, while many workers are attending meetings from home in their pajamas. It’s not an easy transition for everyone, though.

Lawyers have a difficult task because they primarily meet with clients in person. While many have transitioned smoothly without issues, not everything can be done remotely. This is especially true for divorce cases and estate planning issues. A lot of the work can be done over the phone or via email. However, for wills, trusts and probate, documents have to be produced and they often have to be signed and notarized. Using a computer generated signature is not enough.

In Florida, the documents have to be signed, with a person (the lawyer) witnessing the signature. While the state legislature did approve the remote signing of wills, that does not become valid until July 1. This date cannot be changed for now. Courts would have to overrule the existing precedent, and they cannot do so without an existing case or controversy from the public.

Another way to go around the current law would be to have Gov. Ron DeSantis sign an executive order to change the effective date so that lawyers can allow electronic signatures and remote witnessing right now instead of waiting two more months. However, there are roadblocks involved. The governor has limited power to issue executive orders during a state of emergency.

So until July 1, estate planning lawyers have to find ways to stay legal. This means many are having clients sign documents in parking lots and on sidewalks. Many have hand sanitizer on hand to keep themselves and clients safe. They’re having to do some adjusting during this unprecedented situation and while it’s not ideal, it’ll work for now.  There really is no other choice.

While the alternative is to just wait until the COVID-19 pandemic is over, that is not always the best idea. More than 1 million people have died from the coronavirus. It affects people of all ages. Given this, it’s important to start the estate planning now in case the unexpected occurs. People should not delay executing documents such as a living will, durable power of attorney and designating someone to make health care decisions for them. That way, if they do contract COVID-19, they are prepared and will have no concerns about what will happen to them and their assets should they die. Whether they are quarantined at home, in a hospital or in a senior care facility, they can have a trusted family member make decisions on their behalf.

Seek Legal Help

The current environment is making it hard for lawyers to do their jobs. Not everything can be done from home, and changing the laws for a temporary period can prove complicated.

Need help with trusts, wills, probate and other estate planning needs? Fort Lauderdale probate litigation lawyer Edward J. Jennings, P.A. can guide you through the process during these difficult times. To schedule a consultation, fill out the online form or call 954-764-4330.


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