Does a Power of Attorney Signed in a Foreign Country Need to Comply with Florida Law?
A power of attorney is a useful legal tool for giving someone the authority to act in your name while you are still alive. While some powers of attorney only take effect when the principal is incapacitated, they are also often used when the principal is simply unavailable. For example, if you want to sell your house, you might give your agent a power of attorney to sign the sales documents on your behalf if you cannot attend the closing yourself for some reason.
Florida Court Undoes Property Manager’s Condo Transfer Due to Defective Argentine POA
Under Florida law, a power of attorney must be signed by the principal–the person making the power of attorney–and at least two witnesses and be acknowledged by a Notary Public. This is a strict requirement for any power of attorney executed in Florida. There is an exception, however, for powers executed in another U.S. state or territory under the laws of that jurisdiction. Basically, if you sign a power of attorney in another state, and it was valid at the time of execution under the laws of that state, it can still be used in Florida even if it does not strictly comply with Florida’s witnessing and notarization requirements.
But as the Florida Third District Court of Appeals explained earlier this year, this exception does not apply to powers of attorney executed in foreign countries. The case before the Third District, Parisi v. De Kingston, involved the disputed transfer of a Miami condominium. The deceased purchased the condo in 2011 and hired a property manager named Piccolo. The deceased was unmarried but lived with her male partner in Argentina.
When the decedent was dying from cancer, she signed a power of attorney in Argentina naming Piccolo as her agent to sell the Miami condo on her behalf. This power of attorney was notarized and authenticated by Argentinian officials but there were no witness signatures. After signing the document, the decedent handed it to Piccolo in Argentina. Piccolo then returned to the United States intent on selling the condo until the decedent changed her mind when she realized she wouldn’t get the price she wanted.
Notwithstanding this, Piccolo used his power of attorney to sign a quitclaim deed transferring the condo to a company owned by the decedent’s partner. The decedent died three days later. Under Argentine law, the decedent’s mother inherited her property. The decedent’s sister, acting as personal representative of the Florida probate estate, subsequently sued Piccolo and the partner, alleging the power of attorney was invalid under Florida law to transfer real property located in Florida, and thus the transfer of the condo to the partner’s company was void.
Both a trial court and later the Third District agreed with the estate. The appellate court explained that since this was a foreign power of attorney, it had to strictly comply with Florida’s witnessing requirements. Since there were no prescribing witnesses when the decedent signed the power of attorney in Argentina, Piccolo lacked any legal authority to sell or otherwise transfer the decedent’s Florida condo prior to her death. The estate was therefore the rightful owner of the property.
Contact Florida Probate Litigation Attorney Mark R. Manceri Today
Litigation often arises in Florida over the validity of a power of attorney. If you are involved in such a matter and need legal advice or representation from a skilled Pompano Beach power of attorney disputes lawyer, contact the offices of Mark R. Manceri, P.A., today to schedule a consultation.