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Florida Moves to Update Their Notary Processes

online notarization

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Florida senators are considering a new series of measures, which could allow residents to more easily make wills and work with notaries. However, critics suggest the proposed legislation would, in fact, lead to an increase in fraud.

According to Senator Jeff Brandes (R), people shouldn’t have to “rush around seeking notaries”. He claims that new advances in technology should also reflect in the way people access notary services. He hopes these measures would put Florida at the forefront of technological development, while also ensuring that people have easy and convenient access to that technology.

The bill that is being proposed would allow residents to notarize their documents digitally. It is meant to create a legal framework that would define and limit these procedures, as well as establish a certain set of standards to be met, while also recognizing current notarial procedures that are being performed online as fully valid and legally binding.

In the proposed framework, a 24-hour notary public would be required to use video conference technology to make sure they can see and hear the individual(s) involved before they are allowed to perform their job. Some critics, including Senate Democrats, have voiced concerns over the potential for fraud, questioning the validity of online notary services as ostensibly untrustworthy. In response to these accusations, Sen. Brandes suggests the use of digital technology to perform notarial tasks will, in fact, increase security because it will allow the use of identification in conjunction with the video technology. He also argues that the new bill will add new requirements, such as keeping accurate electronic records.

Proponents of the new measures also refer to the fact that it will give new tools for more efficient electronic will-making, by providing new safeguards for the procedure. Whereas critics of the bill point to the fact that it constitutes a very last minute change into legislation, all the while noting that a similar bill was already vetoed by Governor Rick Scott last year. Even some Republican senators, such as Sen. Dorothy Hukill, have made the case that the bill does pose some serious constitutional issues that cannot be ignored, in addition to problems related to venue, substance, identity assurance and the risk of somebody exercising undue influence over the subject in question.

Defenders of the bill, such as Sen. Brandes, remain confident about the bill’s merits and assure citizens that the problems and issues related to the previous bill that was passed last year have now been successfully dealt with, and therefore the new bill will pass with no difficulties whatsoever.

The new proposed legislation, should it pass its upcoming full Senate vote, will in fact grant 24-hour notary public services with new tools and resources to perform their services to the general public, in a way that is more in tune with modern technology and common practice, while at the same time granting these procedures the necessary legal framework, identity, definition, limitations and guarantees to assure their correct application. That is clearly the hope of those defending the new bill, and there is little doubt that these new measures, if implemented in Florida, will most certainly have a huge structural impact on the state of notarial practice in general, and in the way residents access these services (especially as it relates to electronic wills or e-wills).

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