I need you to just witness this Power of Attorney or notarise it or something”.

Powers of Attorney are the bread and butter work of many a notary.  They’re often used by a person or company based in England to enable someone else (perhaps a relative or a foreign lawyer) to sign legal documents abroad on their behalf (often in connection with the purchase or sale of property).  The advantages are obvious in terms of speed.  It means the English based person doesn’t have to travel abroad and sign the papers themselves, saving significant time and cost.

But.  (There’s always a ‘but’….. )

Powers of Attorney usually have to be drafted by the foreign lawyer to ensure they are valid for use in the other country.  If they have been prepared in a foreign language then that may need to be verified if the English client doesn’t understand that language and its legal effect.  Even if a translation has been supplied, who has prepared that?  Can it be relied on?   Powers of Attorney, especially for use in Spain, will give extremely wide ranging authority to a number of individuals to act on your behalf to do pretty much anything they want.  That might be much more than you had intended and so this therefore means that you have to trust them implicitly since they can legally do anything they like with your property, all perfectly legally, in your name.   They might take out loans without your knowledge on your behalf for example and there may not be a time limit or other controls on their ability to act either.  All that needs to be checked and amended if necessary.  It’s certainly not a five minute task!  Basically, if anything did happen to go wrong in the future then your claim would have to be against the foreign lawyer who prepared the document, not the notary you saw to “just witness my signature”.

A good notary will be able to explain the risks involved and check you are happy and legally able to proceed.  They will also deal with the Apostille and Legalisation if required.  Do therefore try and find out at the earliest opportunity if your foreign lawyers want you to see a Notary (not a mere solicitor – many foreign countries don’t know the difference) and if so get them involved as early on as you can