Bills to Make Property Transfers Less Expensive, Allow Electronic Notarization Survive First Legislative Deadline

From:  News Release   2/7/19   GCN

Jackson, Miss.—Two bills which would make it easier and cheaper to distribute a decedent’s property to their heirs are now moving to the Mississippi House of Representatives for floor debate.

House Bills 1375 and 1425, sponsored by Representative Rob Roberson (R-Starkville), passed the House Judiciary A Committee this week. Tuesday, February 5, marked the 2019 Legislative Session’s first major deadline for committees to act on general bills originating in their own chamber.

“When a loved one passes away, the last thing family members should have to deal with is complicated and expensive legalities,” Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said. “This bill is meant to simplify the probate process, and over time I expect thousands of Mississippians will save hundreds of thousands of dollars because of this new legislation.”

In May 2018, Secretary Hosemann commissioned a study group of 26 judges, chancery court clerks, probate attorneys, former legislators, and wealth management professionals to study the State’s current probate process. In October 2018, the group finalized 13 recommendations, which are included in the pending legislation.

These include:

Allowing “transfer on death” deeds, which provide a mechanism to transfer real property at death without going through the probate process;

Expanding the current small estate statute by allowing the transfer of personal property outside of the probate process when the estate is under $100,000; and

Removing the inventory requirement if an inventory of the decedent’s assets is waived in the will, unless the chancellor determines an inventory is necessary.

Secretary Hosemann commissioned a second study group—made up of 23 members, including real estate and banking attorneys, real estate professionals, paralegals, and chancery clerks—to research allowing in-person (not remote) electronic notarization of documents. The group concluded electronic notarization would increase efficiency while protecting document authentication by still requiring the notary to appear in person before the signer.

House Bill 777, sponsored by Representative Shane Aguirre (R-Tupelo), which would authorize electronic notarization, also passed the House Judiciary A Committee this week.

The bill requires the Secretary of State’s Office to develop a program to generate unique document authentication numbers (“DAN”) to include on every electronically notarized document. The DAN and the notary’s name, jurisdiction, and commission expiration date would serve as an electronic seal. Thirty states currently have electronic notarization.