In addition to the relative complexity of adding RON to life planning documents, Blackburn Law Firm, PLLC, anticipates some potential problems with its use. Remember, RON is brand new to Florida. The laws and processes have not been tested by time and use. Here are some potential problems that we can foresee.
Revising your life plan documents:
As a life planning lawyer, I deal with clients every day to revise and update their documents. With traditionally signed documents, updating them is easy – we create a new document and discard the old one.
Revised life plan documents almost always state that the new documents revoke prior documents. I would expect that revised documents signed with RON would also recite that they revoke prior documents. So far, so good.
With traditionally signed documents, the signor almost always knows where the original documents are located or knows that the original has been lost. The traditional originals can be destroyed to avoid accidental or intentional use after updating them with new documents. With electronically signed documents, there is no “original” that can be easily identified because it is signed in blue ink.
With electronically signed documents, who knows how many copies are in electronic circulation and where they are? How do you get them back after they have been emailed to who knows who? How do you communicate to everyone who received an email copy, health care providers, or financial institutions that they have been superseded or revoked?
How do you communicate to the “qualified custodian” of an electronic will or trust that the older version has been revoked or superseded? What is the “qualified custodian” supposed to do with the older version? The new electronic wills statute does not address this issue.
Understanding your life plan documents:
Signing, notarizing, and witnessing documents online is one thing. Reviewing the documents with the lawyer is another thing entirely. At Blackburn Law Firm – LifePlanLaw.com, Cathy or Spencer always review documents with clients. We are willing to send drafts if clients wish to review drafts, but we always go over the final documents with clients. Doing that remotely is not especially easy and requires more time than a face to face meeting.
The risk that your RON documents will be challenged:
Remember the description of the RON process with three questions designed to identify “vulnerable adults” and five questions about who assisted with the video technology, assisted with preparing the documents, and is in the room with you?
Any answer other than a truthful “NO” to drugs or alcohol, physical or mental impairment, assistance with daily care, assistance with technology or documents, or person in the room with you could lead to a challenge. Challenges are expensive and create a risk that your wishes will be disregarded.
If you take medications that could impair your thinking, have any physical limitations, experience any memory issues, or require assistance with activities of daily living, using computerized video technology, or understanding your life planning documents, I recommend that you do not use RON. I recommend that you consult personally with a lawyer who can assist you with the entire process, including executing your documents, without introducing an unnecessary risk that someone in the future will challenge your documents.
The cost of using RON:
Using RON adds steps, complexity, and difficulty to executing life planning documents. It does not reduce or eliminate them.
RON requires more tech hardware such as webcams, additional computer processing power, additional electronic storage capacity, and faster internet access. It requires additional software to produce documents for electronic use and communicate via video technology.
For a life planning lawyer, using RON takes more time. Explaining life plan documents by email, telephone, or video conference takes more time than explaining them in person and is significantly more frustrating for people who are accustomed to speaking face to face. Explaining how to use the video technology, sign the documents electronically, retrieve and store the documents takes time. As life planning lawyers, Cathy and Spencer are not Information Technology experts or human factors experts. We try to assist clients with all tasks needed to complete their life plans, but we are not technical experts.
RON adds at least two new providers to the signing process – the RON provider and the qualified custodian for the will and/or trust. These providers must be paid.
Because of all these factors, the cost of RON will be higher than the cost of signing documents in person.