Can’t travel or don’t want to travel
Concerns regarding the global outbreak of COVID-19, the coronavirus, are real. It’s on the verge of being declared a pandemic and it’s starting to affect movement and international travel. When there are travel restrictions people are no longer able to travel to attend to whatever they need to attend to overseas. The demand for the power of attorney has never been greater than now.
If you’re affected by travel restrictions, how does a power of attorney help?
Many clients have contacted us with urgent requests to witness and notarise their power of attorney because they can’t travel (or they don’t want to travel). Here are some frequently asked questions that may help you to decide what you should be doing.
What is a power of attorney?
A power of attorney is a legal authority that you grant to someone (your attorney) to do things on your behalf. Generally, this relates to handling financial matters on your behalf, but it can also relate to handling personal and family matters too – depending on the laws of the destination country. In short, it’s just an authority letter but it has legal meaning and power. Don’t let travel restrictions stop you from doing what you need to do.
Do you prepare the power of attorney?
No, as lawyers in New South Wales, we can only help you if you need to prepare a power of attorney for use in New South Wales. Each state and each country (and even states/provinces within those countries) may have different laws dealing with the power of attorney (as well as related laws around the payment of duty, registration, and enforceability). You should always seek advice from a lawyer in the intended destination country and preferably they’re able to prepare the power of attorney and send it to you. Many of our clients arrange for their lawyer to email them the completed document to print and sign, some have templates sent to them, and others actually have the physical document printed and sent to them (especially if they need to use specific paper like stamped/bonded paper or paper that is a specific legal size in that destination country).
If you’re affected by travel restrictions or know you will be, then you need to contact your lawyer in the intended destination country to start this process as soon as possible.
Do I need to be present to sign the power of attorney?
Yes, if you’re the person giving the power of attorney then you need to present yourself and sign the power of attorney in our presence. The challenge at the moment is that due to the fear of the coronavirus and infection, we have also introduced restrictions on the number of clients that we’re seeing as well as certain precautions when you come to our office. For example, do not be offended by the fact that we will be wearing facemasks or that we wipe down the room, table, and pens after every appointment. These precautions are for your safety as much as it is for ours. We cannot guarantee that no client before you is infected with the virus or that we are virus-free ourselves. We just do the best we can in the circumstances.
Do I need to register the power of attorney or get an apostille or authentication?
Depending on the intended destination country, each country has different specific requirements that you must follow in order for the power of attorney to be valid in that country. We can provide you with some guidance as to the technical position (if there is one) and suggestions based on our experience and that of past clients, but ultimately, you should obtain advice from your lawyer in the intended destination country. They would be in the best position to advise you as to the specific requirements – and you should follow them to avoid complications, delay and the additional cost of not complying.
How long will it take to sign the power of attorney?
The process around witnessing your signature and notarisation is quick. We generally will complete your appointment within 30 minutes, which is the normal allotted time for each appointment. If you need to do other things, like have your power of attorney stamped with an apostille or authenticated and legalised, then you need to start to allow for weeks in terms of the turnaround. We can assist you with the additional steps, but if you’re in a rush and it’s urgent then you should probably make your own enquiries as to what other steps will be necessary. Unfortunately, during this time we expect that turnaround times will be extended due to staff shortages and additional health protocols.
Also consider that if travel restrictions may not just apply to international travel, but it could also apply to domestic travel (ie, distance and times). Making arrangements in advance will avoid the potential problems caused by changes to local health orders – just see what’s happening overseas.
How do I make an appointment to get my power of attorney notarised?
The best way to make an appointment is by calling us. At this stage, we are unsure of wait times as we are continuously assessing the situation and government announcements on a daily basis.