Absentee landowners or persons conducting property transactions need not worry that their interests will be abused or otherwise affected by their absence from the country, as they can appoint someone to legally act on their behalf.
This procedure is known as administering the terms of a Power of Attorney, explained Joan Walker, Legal Officer in the Land Titles Division of the National Land Agency (NLA).
A Power of Attorney is a legal document or instrument that delegates legal authority to another. The individual or company, which appoints an individual by executing a Power of Attorney, is called the principal. The Power of Attorney gives legal authority to the appointed individual (called an agent or attorney-in-fact) to make property, financial and other legal decisions for the principal. “You may appoint more than one person to act on your behalf. There are no restrictions on the number of persons that you may appoint as long as the persons are of a sound mind and have attained the age of 18 years,” Miss Walker told JIS News. A principal can also decide whether he wishes to give an agent wide legal authority, or very limited authority.
Explaining, Miss Walker said, “the Power of Attorney can restrict the duties that the principal wishes the agent to do, or it can give general powers to the agent to conduct business and/ or sign on his behalf,” she pointed out, while adding that, “if a landowner wants his agent to only conduct one transaction, then he can so instruct.”
The Power of Attorney can also enable an agent to go to court on the principal’s behalf.
Persons wishing to utilise this avenue can access power of attorney forms on the NLA’s website at www.nla.gov.jm. They must however, ensure that the proper procedures are followed. Only the executing party can sign a Power of Attorney, and a justice of the peace (JP) or notary public must witness the signature. “The document should then be taken to the Stamp Office to be stamped and then to the Titles Office and/or the Registrar General’s Department (RGD) to be recorded before it can be effective,” Miss Walker pointed out.
The Power of Attorney is also frequently used in the event of a principal’s illness or disability, or in legal transactions where the principal cannot be present to sign necessary legal documents. The legal officer cautioned though, that persons must be careful of the person or persons being selected to act on their behalf. “It is a very powerful instrument, so one must be careful in selecting the persons who are authorised to act on your behalf by means of this legal document,” she stated.
Additionally, Miss Walker advised that the executing party or principal could rescind or withdraw the instrument at any time. “Should you no longer wish for that person to act on your behalf, you can execute a document to revoke the Power of Attorney, which will make the authority to the agent null and void,” she informed.