Will my power of attorney be recognised abroad?

anxious man with suitcase,abroad,foreign,power of attorney

If you are moving abroad, you should consider whether any planning you have undertaken will be valid in your destination.

If you have taken the step of setting up a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) or an Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA), you may have to revisit it if you decide to move abroad to work or to retire, or if you own property or assets overseas.

In any of these cases you will need to take specialist legal advice to make sure that the right documentation is in place in the event that you lose capacity.

What problems could arise?

You should bear in mind that not all jurisdictions have the same approach to mental capacity. Depending on the particular circumstances, a number of questions may arise:

  • Which country’s courts will have the jurisdiction to be able to make orders in respect of your property and finances?
  • Will the jurisdiction you are moving to be able to recognise and enforce either:
    • the orders of the court of your jurisdiction; or
    • an LPA or EPA that is valid in your jurisdiction?

If you have been well advised, then you will hopefully have signed a similar power of attorney document in the foreign jurisdiction where the property or money is situated. It is much simpler to be able to deal with assets abroad using an equivalent power of attorney in that other jurisdiction.

If you haven’t taken the step of having another foreign power of attorney in place, then if your LPA or EPA has been registered with the relevant authorities, in some circumstances it may be acceptable to be used in the foreign jurisdiction. Foreign advice would have to be taken as to its acceptability or otherwise. Even if the LPA or EPA is recognised abroad, there may still be local requirements that will have to be met before it is used. Lawyers or notaries in those jurisdictions would have to give advice as to what is required.

In some countries, the LPA or EPA may have to be translated into the local language in order for it to be used and some jurisdictions will require an ‘apostille’ to be affixed to it by the Foreign Commonwealth office so that it can be used. This is a certificate attached to the document that confirms that the signature, seal or stamp on the document is genuine.

Planning ahead

If you are thinking of moving abroad to either work or retire, then you should consider taking advice on what would happen to any assets that you own abroad, should you subsequently lose your mental capacity. It is always advisable to plan ahead as no one knows what the future may hold. In all circumstances where advice or the law of a foreign jurisdiction is needed, it should be obtained from a legal practitioner who is suitably qualified in that jurisdiction.

The test for mental capacity differs throughout various foreign jurisdictions. They each have their own approach in the way that they define mental capacity as well as the various forms of representation that can be used like an LPA or EPA. Sometimes these are referred to as continuing or durable powers of attorney in other jurisdictions. The differing powers can be revoked by incapacity, marriage or divorce, so specialist advice will always need to be taken in respect of the jurisdiction in which the relevant power is to be used.

TEPs are well qualified to give specialist advice in these complex interjurisdictional situations. There are over 20,000 STEP members across the globe, so there is always someone who can help with the difficult cross-border issues that can arise.

This article does not apply to health and welfare issues that may arise if you are moving or retiring abroad as there may be additional or different issues that may arise. Again, specialist advice will be needed.

Patricia Wass TEP is a consultant at Enable Law, Plymouth, UK