Who can witness a Power of Attorney in the UK – Solicitor or not?
What is a Power of Attorney?
A Power of Attorney, or POA, is a legal document which transfers authority to act from one group or individual, to another. This could be a personal POA which allows someone to manage the financial affairs, property or care of another, or a company POA.
If a personal Power of Attorney is being prepared and used within the same country, simply having the document witnessed by any individual is usually sufficient for this to be a legally binding document. If the document is being presented overseas however, it will likely require legalisation before it will be accepted as a legal document.
What does a Power of Attorney need to include to be accepted?
What a Power of Attorney includes is entirely dependant on the nature of the agreement being drafted. There are several points which could be considered a requirement in order to make your document sound. Some points which should be included are:
- What Power of Attorney is being given over
- Who is relinquishing control (Principle) and who is taking control (Attorney-in-fact)
- When the document is coming into effect and if there is a timescale before it reverts to another party
- If there are any specific events or circumstances that would void the agreement
- The names and addresses of the parties involved
For more complex cases the document will require much more detail and you may consider asking a solicitor to prepare the document for you, though this isn’t a requirement. If this is a document to outline a personal agreement, it will likely not require validation by any officials unless something goes wrong. Therefore it’s important to ensure you’ve considered all possibilities and included these in your wording.
Do I need a solicitor to witness a Power of Attorney in the UK?
In the UK it’s not necessary to have a solicitor witness a Power of Attorney in order for it to be considered official. The only times this may differ is if the document is required for official purposes or legal proceedings. You may be required to have a solicitor or Notary Public draft the agreement and witness the signatures. If you have been asked to provide a Power of Attorney, check whether this will be a requirement.
Other times you may be required to attend in person to have a signature witnessed is if the Power of Attorney relates to a company or if there is a large amount of investment involved. If you attend the office of a Notary Public you will be required to provide official photo ID such as a passport or driving license. This allows the Notary to verify your identity and witness you signing the document in person.
In most cases however, for personal matters, anyone can be a witness on a Power of Attorney. They will simply need to include their full name, address and contact details as well as signing and dating the end of the document. Including their passport number if one is available is a useful addition.
If more than one party is involved in the agreement, it’s a good idea to make several copies and have each one signed at the same time. This allows each individual involved to keep a hard copy with a wet signature, as it will often be the case that if the document is being presented, an original will be required.
The person granting the Power of Attorney is overseas, how can I get this processed?
It is often the case that a company or individual holds property or capital overseas and needs to pass guardianship of their finances on to someone else for management or safekeeping. If the person who wishes to pass Power of Attorney resides in a different country, it can cause difficulties obtaining a wet signature.
A resolution to this problem can be locating a Notary Public or solicitor which is registered to practice in both countries simultaneously. For example, even if a solicitor lives in the US and is registered with the official authorities there, they can also be registered with the British authorities to practice as an official on their behalf. This would allow a solicitor in the US to witness a signature in-country and it would be recognised as a legal document when it reached the UK.
To find officials who are registered in both your country and the country you wish to have the signature witnessed in, get in touch with the Embassy. Most Embassies hold a list of their native solicitors and Notary Publics practising in their residence territory.
If I’m presenting my Power of Attorney overseas, what else do I need to do?
To present a Power of Attorney overseas, it will require legalisation in order for this to be used in a legal capacity. In all instances, the original is required to be processed. Dependant on the destination country and whether this is a personal or company POA, it will likely need to go through several steps. This includes:
- Solicitor witnessed co-signature
- Apostille stamp at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
- Consular stamp at the Embassy of the destination country
If you are presenting the POA outside of the UK, the signature must be witnessed by a solicitor, who will co-sign this with you. This is the main difference for POA witnessing between the document being presented within the UK and overseas. For example, if you are appointing an attorney in the UAE, prior to having this legalised on the original document you will need to visit a solicitor to have them witness you signing the document.
One of the biggest issues people face when wishing to use Attorney overseas is determining the document’s country of origin. If the Power of Attorney is drafted in the UK but signed in the UAE by a British passport holder, the document may be considered a UAE document and therefore can’t be legalised in the UK. In another instance, a Power of Attorney may be drafted and signed in the UK relinquishing control of a company in the UAE. The document itself is considered a UK document, despite the fact that it relates to a UAE entity.
Several factors must be considered prior to processing including where the document is produced, where it is signed and what it relates to. As such, each case is different and must be treated individually.
Whatever your Power of Attorney relates to or wherever it was issued, we can assist. Simply visit our site and request a personalised quotation based on your requirements. You can also give us a call directly on +44 (0) 330 088 1142, send us a message via WhatsApp on mobile, use our live chat system, or e-mail us at email@example.com. Our friendly team of specialists are on hand to answer all of your queries.