Maintaining A Current Photo ID: A Simple but Necessary Piece for Planning Ahead


Whether it is a driver license or a passport, an up-to-date government issued photo ID is a must for adults today. A proper ID is absolutely necessary to handle some personal business. However, many older adults overlook this priority. Some who no longer drive or don’t expect to travel abroad may think an updated driver’s license or a valid passport is not necessary. That is a huge mistake!

But, keeping your ID up to date is very important! You may need to prove your identity in order to execute certain legal documents that must be notarized. Most times a notary must require that the document signer produce a current ID to prove his or her identity. Without a current ID, the notary’s work becomes very complicated and the process can be impossible.

Here is a situation we have encountered too many times:

Ed went to the hospital now needs to go to a rehab facility. He is unable leave the hospital to go to the bank or deal with his finances. He asked his daughter, Sue, to help him. Sue went to the bank to access his account and was told she needs a power of attorney. Together Ed and Sue call us to get help. Ed understands what is going on and wants a power of attorney so Sue can help with his affairs.

Before we can execute any documents with Ed, we ask him if he has a current Florida ID. Ed says he hasn’t driven for a while and driver’s license expired years ago! He and Sue talked about getting a Florida ID instead. With Homeland Security changes, Ed had to produce several forms of ID in order to bring his Florida ID current – even if it wasn’t for a driver’s license. Ed thought it was a hassle, so they put it off. Now that he can’t leave the hospital and go to a government office in person, there’s no way to get a new ID issued.

Without a current ID, and no way to obtain one, the process of executing a power of attorney for Ed has become almost impossible. Sue has to find witnesses that can attest to Ed’s identity. But those witnesses cannot be present because of COVID-19 restrictions. Sue is unable to do anything, and the notary is restricted by law from notarizing a document without knowing Ed personally or seeing his ID.

Why Does Notarization Matter?

In Florida, for a durable power of attorney to be valid, the signer must execute the document in the presence of two witnesses and a notary.

To notarize a document, the notary must first identify the person whose signature needs notarizing. Generally, this requirement is completed by personally knowing the signer or seeing an acceptable form of ID.

The following is a list of the most common government-issued IDs you would present to a Florida notary:

  • A current (unexpired) Florida Driver’s License.
  • A valid Florida Identification card (for non-drivers).
  • A driver’s license issued by another state.
  • A passport issued by the Department of State of the United States.
  • A passport issued by a foreign government if the document is stamped by the United States Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services; and
  • An identification card issued by any branch of the armed forces of the United States.

In order for the notary to rely on the ID for notarization, it must either be current (unexpired), or it needs to have been issued within the past 5 years and have a serial or other identifying number.

What If I Don’t Have an Acceptable ID?

Unfortunately, some people find themselves in a situation where they need powers of attorney or estate planning documents executed but they don’t have a proper ID. Not all hope is lost. There are some other ways to prove the signer’s identity:

  • The notary personally knows you and can legally notarize your document (notaries cannot notarize for family members or certain people).
  • Obtain sworn, notarized, statements from two witnesses that state they personally know you (which may be hard to come by for the very elderly or new Florida residents).

What Can I Do Today?

One of the easiest ways to plan ahead is to maintain a current ID. Make note on your calendar when your ID is going to expire and plan to renew it early. A valid ID allows your elder law attorney to better assist you and your family when it is time to create or update estate planning documents.

Take the time today to check if your (or your elderly loved one’s) ID is up to date. If it’s not, we encourage you to obtain a new ID now, and to make it a habit to start every year by checking that the ID is still valid. This simple planning step can make for smoother sailing in the future.

By Alana D. Horner