Coronavirus: Keeping things moving with temporary Powers of Attorney
It is very possible that during the current pandemic and with everyone following the government’s instructions to self-isolate and socially distance ourselves, you will have concerns about how this will affect your ability to attend to your legal affairs, be that continuing with ones already underway or starting new transactions.
If you need to sign paperwork now and in the future, you may not be able to get to the meeting but by planning ahead, arrangements can be made which should not delay your transactions or prevent it from happening entirely. You can do this by appointing a temporary power of attorney.
How can a delegated power of attorney help me?
It is possible to delegate your legal authority to carry out tasks on your behalf to someone else using a deed – an Ordinary Power of Attorney. The type of authority you can delegate may include the authority to sign contracts or other deeds on your behalf. You become the “donor” and your trusted third party, your “attorney.”
It is possible to implement a wide ranging and general Ordinary Power of Attorney enabling someone to manage your property and financial affairs entirely on your behalf, or to carrying out one particular task or transaction for you. The first more general type is useful in circumstances when you are out of the country or perhaps in self-isolation for extended periods. The second, more specific type, is most common and more suitable if, in all other regards, you can continue to manage your own affairs but simply require the ability to delegate your authority to complete a specific task or transaction.
Whichever type of Ordinary Power of Attorney you decide upon is right for you, you can specify a time limit, at the end of which the authority of the attorney ceases. This cessation could occur even if the transaction they were completing on your behalf is still not complete in which case new authority would be needed by way of a newly executed document.
What can a power of attorney complete on my behalf?
Some examples of when it may be appropriate to execute an Ordinary Power of Attorney to enable someone to act on your behalf include:-
- Executing deeds – for example, to enable the attorney to sign a transfer deed on the sale or completion of a property on your behalf;
- Completion meetings – for example, to enable the attorney who will be in attendance to sign the transaction documents on your behalf;
- On selling shares – for example, you may have completed on the sale of shares to a third party but prior the buyer being listed on the share register, you may execute an Ordinary Power of Attorney in favour of the buyer in order that they can carry out any transactions they wish with their new shares while they remain in your name on the register;
- Proxies – for example, you cannot attend a shareholder’s meeting and as such to enable an attorney to vote at that meeting on your behalf.
Provided the Ordinary Power of Attorney deed is drafted appropriately, you can choose to revoke the power you have delegated at any point which can be a useful failsafe if your attorney acts in any way contrary to your best interests.
Ordinary Powers of Attorney can be prepared swiftly and they are often required at short notice. It is important, however, particularly if granting a specific power, that the drafting of the deed itself is wide enough to ensure the attorney can do what is required to complete the transaction but not too wide so as to allow the attorney to make decisions outside the scope of the authority you wanted to delegate in the first place.
How do Ordinary Powers of Attorney differ from Lasting Powers of Attorney?
The use of Ordinary Powers of Attorney does tend to be better suited to transactional or commercial contexts and there is an important distinction to be made between them and perhaps the more common Enduring and Lasting Powers of Attorney. The latter two types of power enable your attorney to continue acting on your behalf even if you lost your mental capacity. An attorney acting under an Ordinary Power of Attorney cannot continue acting in those circumstances – their authority ceases with you having lost mental capacity.
If you are concerned about the ongoing management of your affairs in the longer term, in particular in the event you lose mental capacity, you should consider preparing Lasting Powers of Attorney.
If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised here about appointing an ordinary Power of Attorney or any aspect of managing your affairs, please do contact Matt Parr or another member of the private client team in your local office.
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For more general advice in relation to coronavirus visit our dedicated resource hub.