A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that lets you (the ‘donor’) appoint one or more people (known as ‘attorneys’) to act on your behalf in private affairs, business, or some other legal matter.
In order for a power of attorney to be legally binding, the donor and the attorney must be mentally competent and of legal age. In addition, the power of attorney must be witnessed and signed before a notary, where the donor is clearly instructed with the contents and the effects of the POA.
The power of attorney is the most practical and common way of delegating authority.
The Contents of a Power of Attorney
The powers given by the donor may differ substantially depending on the transaction or legal matter for which the POA is required for (civil or criminal litigation, real estate, inheritance matters, etc…).
Spanish powers of attorney usually give the donor very broad powers to deal with each specific affair. For example, a power of attorney for the purchase of a property often includes clauses allowing the attorney to open, close and manage bank accounts, set up direct debits, contract utility suppliers, pay taxes, submit forms, send and receive notifications to and from different authorities, the list goes on.
This is solely done for practical reasons, in order for the attorney to be able to carry out all the necessary steps to complete the service. It would be very time consuming and costly for the donor to authorise each action separately. However, this does not mean that the donor cannot ask to limit the powers. This can be requested at all times.
The Attorney’s Role and Responsibilities
Acting as an attorney is a tremendous responsibility and one that should not be given — or taken on — without careful consideration. By law, the attorney is required to act under the direction of the donor, assuming they are competent; and to act exclusively for the benefit of the donor. The attorney should maintain a paper trail to demonstrate that all actions are taken, including any spending of the donor’s money, have been for the donor’s benefit.
The specific functions that an attorney performs will vary according to the personal needs of the individual donor and the assets to be managed. Any guidelines and restrictions should be clearly outlined in the power of attorney documentation.