Property Advice: Power of Attorney
YOUR PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE
As a Zambian living abroad, you may find that you need to sign important documents relating to a property you want to purchase or sell at home. Of course, documents can be couriered back and forth but the costs of this can add up as well as the time. Another option that is available is appointing an attorney to sign documents on your behalf.
What is a power of attorney?
A power of attorney is a legal document giving one person (the agent or attorney) the power to act for another person (the principal) in a number of areas such as property, finances, health care etc. For purposes of this article, we’ll confine ourselves to matters of property. The agent can have broad legal authority or specific authority to make decisions about the principal’s property. The power of attorney is usually used when the principal can’t be present to sign the necessary legal documents or in the event of a principal’s illness or disability.
Are there different types of powers of attorney?
As mentioned above, a power of attorney can convey broad or specific responsibilities. A general power of attorney can act on your behalf in any and all matters. In such a case, your agent would be authorized to take care of many of your personal issues such as selling or buying assets, overseeing bank accounts, signing cheques, filing tax returns etc. A limited power of attorney would give your agent the power to act in specific matters or events. For example, a limited power of attorney may explicitly state that the agent is only allowed to manage the sale of a particular property. A limited power of attorney may also be limited to a specific period of time, for example, if you will be out of the country for, say, two years.
Who can act as your attorney?
Your agent can be any competent adult, including a professional such as a lawyer, accountant or banker. It can also be a family member such as a spouse, adult child or another relative. A power of attorney grants immense ownership authority and responsibility. You could find yourself being swindled out of your assets or money if you end up appointing the wrong agent. Therefore, you should choose your agent with great care to ensure your wishes are carried out to the letter.
It is critical to name a person who is both trustworthy and capable to serve as your agent. This person will act with the same legal authority you would have, so any mistakes made by your agent may be very difficult to correct. Moreover, the power of attorney may contain an indemnity where you agree to ratify and confirm all things the agent lawfully does. So it may be difficult to unwind certain decisions or actions unless you can prove illegality. The most important attribute is the trustworthiness of the person you identify as your agent.
A power of attorney for property may include powers for the agent to:
- Sign all necessary documents in connection with the subdividing, selling or buying of a certain property.
- Receive the full purchase price or rentals in respect of specified properties.
- Undertake refurbishment or renovations to the property and manage all matters relating to the physical upkeep of the property.
From the above you can see why a power of attorney may be useful, but only when conveyed with great care to trustworthy individuals with high levels of integrity.
Please note that the above information is intended to provide general information only. The contents contained in this article do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. For legal advice please contact a licensed legal professional.