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In Florida, if Someone Prints Last Will and Testament and Power of Attorney Forms From the Internet and has Them Notarized, are They Legal Documents?

Pursuant to Florida law in place as of March 07, 2019, to answer this question as it was literally written, the answer is NO - they are not legal documents. I strongly urge everyone not to print Power of Attorney and Last Will and Testament forms from the internet for signing and notarizing. Per the Florida Statutes, both sets of documents require specific types of witnesses and it is not mentioned that the documents were witnessed and signed by the right people. Also, you may be choosing witnesses that may not make the...well, best witnesses, if later on your documents are challenged in court.

Let's say that you did find the right types of witnesses required by the Florida Statutes and you did sign the forms in front of both the witnesses and the notary (if notarization is even necessary, depending on which document we're analyzing and what are your goals) - the document itself may be a poorly drafted one or worse - no longer legal at all!

Keep this in mind - when you use Google searches for anything, the most frequented and relevant sites appear on the first few pages. If a particular form on a website is used over and over again for years, it will likely build up the search engine optimization to appear at the top of the listings for years to come. However, if the law changes and makes those forms no longer valid (for example, the termination of "springing" powers of attorney on October 01, 2016), there are no legal police that remove those outdated websites with outdated legal forms from the top of Google's search results. It could take months to even years for the Google search engines to realize that they are promoting a bad website link and handing you a bad form.

To answer the second part of the question, powers of attorney are only filed in limited circumstances, such as when used to sign as an agent for the principal in a real estate transaction. Last Wills only need to be deposited with the clerk by the person in possession within 10 days after the Testator's death.

Just as it is important to have the right kind of witnesses signing your documents, it is also important to have the right kind of notary proving them. Notarizing any document does not make it a legally binding document per se. Some notaries don’t necessarily read or are not familiar enough with certain documents to determine whether or not the document they are notarizing will be legally enforced. As an example, there was an issue where a notary signed and stamped a Last Will and Testament about a decade ago that the court in Miami-Dade County did not accept because of how the document was written. When the notary was asked to come to court to become a witness to the will, she absolutely refused, claiming that she notarizes countless documents, including wills, in her practice as a notary and would not be able to remember every document. In addition, the thought of going to court, even for something as miniscule as signing an oath of witness to a will, terrified her. As a result, the beneficiary of the will was forced to seek legal counsel to circumvent the situation as the courts never accepted the will, even though it was notarized.

This article is written by Florida attorneys and only considers Florida law in place at the time of publication. This article should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice and one should always consult with an attorney in their state before making any legal decisions.

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