Why Giving Power Of Attorney Is Important For Expats

Giving someone the authority to look after your financial affairs if you fall ill is a good idea that is overlooked by most expats.

Many expats have property, cash and investments in more than one country and this complicates legal matters even more if they are viewed as incompetent in managing their affairs.

That’s why lawyers are promoting giving power of attorney to a trusted friend or relative in the event the worst should happen.

STEP, the international organisation for lawyers and financial advisers working in estate planning, urges everyone to make arrangements to give power of attorney sooner rather than later.

“Life is uncertain and you never know if you will be incapacitated by an accident or illness,” said a spokesman. “Most people believe a power of attorney is for old age, but the need can arise at any age.”

Financial affairs

For expats, the problem with granting power of attorney is that the rules are different in every country and agreeing to hand over control in one place does not mean financial affairs in another are automatically covered.

For instance, a lawyer in Spain can draw up the documents that cover that country, but the expat would have to make other arrangements for another agreement in the UK.

Travelling between countries to set up the attorney documents is expensive – but consulates will help with notarising documents to cut down the travel required.

Power of attorney gives authority to a representative to act on an expat’s behalf.

They can manage the expat’s financial affairs as if they were the expat, or the documents can include restrictions.

Advice for expats

Having the power of attorney allows representatives to step in and help without the time and cost of going through the courts.

“There’s no reason to worry about having a power of attorney,” said the STEP spokesman.

“Many are never used, but to give some example of why they are needed, fewer than 250,000 powers of attorney were registered in the UK, but 850,000 have trouble managing their finances because they suffer from dementia.”

England and Wales has two types of power of attorney – one for health and welfare and the other for property and finances. Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own arrangements.

“It’s important that you cover all the bases if you live abroad by having a power of attorney and a will for each financial jurisdiction where you have money, investments or property,” said the spokesman.

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