4 Things to Know about Closing with a Power of Attorney

A Power of Attorney (POA) is a document in which a principal party appoints a fiduciary party to act on behalf of the principal party, typically in regard to legal affairs.  The POA can be a useful tool in residential real estate transactions when a necessary party will be unavailable to execute documents prior to or attend the closing.  Sometimes, however, providing a POA for closing a real estate transaction is easier said than done. Here are four things you need to know to facilitate closing a transaction using a POA:

  1. In almost all cases, the original POA has to be recorded in the county where the property is located.  In order to be recorded, the POA presented must contain the original signature of the principal, and it must be notarized. A copy of an unrecorded POA usually will be insufficient to consummate a real estate transaction.  Since the original must be recorded, considerable time should be allowed for the preparation of the document and for the non-attending party to have the POA signed, notarized and returned by overnight delivery to the fiduciary party or the attorney handling the closing.   
  2. Parties should be aware that having the POA signed, notarized and returned might require scheduling considerations.  If stateside, it is often a simple task to walk into a local bank branch office, local law firm or local car dealership and request that a document be notarized; however, when the principal is abroad, locating a notary public may take additional effort and time.  Notary functions can be performed at US Embassies and by military personal assigned overseas, but if one of those options is not available, consideration will have to be made to have a local notary or equivalent involved, including translation of the documents.  All parties involved in the closing, including lenders should be made aware of any potential hardships the principal party may encounter in locating a notary public before a closing date is set.  
  3. Make sure you have the right type of power of attorney.  It should be noted that even if time allows for the execution and proper delivery of a POA for closing, you should have your closing attorney review the POA to make sure the one you have is in appropriate form.   There are POAs that limit what the fiduciary is allowed to do.  We have seen one approved by a mortgage company for a purchase transaction that stated the fiduciary could not incur any new debt.  This clearly will not work if the fiduciary is signing the loan documents.  
  4. If a Corporation, Company, LLC or Trustee of a trust is the entity in need of a substituted signer because the usual authorized signer will not be available, a POA may not be the appropriate document.  When the principal party is a company or corporation, a Resolution by the members or shareholders is the appropriate document to appoint a signatory for closing.  When the principal party is the trustee of a trust, an Appointment of Successor Trustee may be the appropriate document to appoint a signatory for closing.  

Although closing with a POA requires a little extra attentiveness to timing issues prior to closing, it is a useful tool in facilitating a transaction.  And, whether using a POA, company or corporate Resolution or an Appointment of Successor Trustee an excellent practice remains to have an attorney draft or review the final document. 

Published by John F. Renger on August 23, 2016