You may be familiar with the phrase, “power of attorney,” but you may not know its purpose or when to use it. This article covers the basics of a power of attorney and how it could be helpful if you are thinking of purchasing a property, if you already own property or if you have inherited assets in Italy.
• A power of attorney – “Procura” in Italian, is a legal document by which you (the “principal”) give certain powers to someone else. This person becomes your “attorney” (the “agent”); authorised to act for you, on your behalf.
• A power of attorney document specifies exactly what powers you, the principal, give to your selected attorney / the agent.
• You can limit the powers you give to your attorney. This is known as, Procura Speciale in Italian.
o For example, if you are buying a house in Italy, but the day you are due to be in Italy to complete the sale you have to be at work in the UK, you can give your attorney / agent the power to sign the deed in your absence.
o Or, suppose you live in the USA and have inherited assets in Italy, but are unable to make it to Italy to file for probate, re-register assets in your name or organise legal separation of assets from a communal inheritance, you can give your attorney / agent the power to manage the Italian succession procedure.
• A general and durable power of attorney, Procura Generale in Italian, however gives your attorney the power to do almost anything you could do.
• Both Procura Speciale and Procura Generale are usually terminated when the principal dies or becomes legally “incapable”. A power of attorney can however be revoked at any time by using the same legal document used to confer it in first place.
• If you are considering conferring a power of attorney, you should be extremely careful about who you appoint to represent you. You are delegating the management of your affairs to someone. It is therefore of the utmost importance that you appoint a trustworthy and competent person, preferably a professional. It is not advisable to confer power of attorney on someone who is inexperienced or someone with whom you might have a conflict of interest.
• A power of attorney for use on Italian territory is a formal document, which must meet various legal requirements; it is generally examined by the competent authorities in a very rigorous way. The person you entrust with your power of attorney will need to sign the document in the presence of a public officer in his / her home country. The USA, UK and Australia are signatories of The Hague Convention of 5th October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents. You will however need an Apostille Certificate or Stamp, also known as the Hague Apostille, as proof of authenticity. Check procedures with the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the US Department of State and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
A power of attorney is very sensitive. You are entrusting your rights and affairs to someone else. It is therefore advisable that you seek the help of a professional when drawing up the document.