Greek American Legal Topics: Power of Attorney

Welcome Foreign Legal Consultant, Christos Kiosses, who specializes in assisting Greek Americans with legal issues in Greece. He will be writing about various legal issues. Here, he discusses Power of Attorney.

If you own property in Greece and live abroad, you will certainly need a Power of Attorney (PoA).

 

COURTESY Christos Kiosses
COURTESY Christos Kiosses

 

You can’t be in two places at once

Unless you are an atom or a subatomic particle governed by quantum physics, chances are you can’t be in two places at the same time, no matter how convenient that would be! Imagine: Leave one self working at the office, while the other, fun loving self enjoys dipping a koulouri in a cup of aromatic Greek coffee, under the shade of the huge, ancient sycamore tree in the middle of the old horio

What if I told you that for almost anything YOU can do (in legal terms), you can give the power to SOMEONE ELSE to do it on your behalf? “What sorcery is this?” you ask! Here’s where the need for a proxy becomes apparent. Within the Greek legal system, you can empower another individual to perform specific acts of legal importance. Those acts will benefit you or burden you in the same way, as if you had performed them yourself. Your proxy will be your authorized agent performing within the powers that you have allowed them to carry.

 

Who can give a Power of Attorney

Any person, who has legal capacity, i.e., who is of legal age and of sound mind, and has not been restricted in the exercise of their legal rights, has the ability to give the Power of Attorney to another individual to perform almost any legal right, with a few notable exceptions (discussed below). This is extremely helpful in situations where distance is a burden (you are in a different city or in another country), or when time is precious (you are too busy with work or there is a time limit for filing papers), or if poor health is a problem, or when other duties get in the way (you have to cover for a colleague or there’s an emergency at home), or even when one does not want to be involved in some proceedings in person (for example divorce court proceedings).

 

What can be conveyed

As a rule of thumb, anything you can do (within the legal realm) you can have someone else do it for you. You want to buy a house? You can sign a Power of Attorney and have another person go through all the proceedings. At the end of the day, you will be the proud owner of the house without having lifted a finger.

Nevertheless, there are some very important restrictions and exceptions.

a) One cannot convey more rights than they own.

If you own half of the vineyard and your sister owns the other half, you cannot sign a Power of Attorney to sell the whole property. You can only sign for the part that belongs to you.

b) There are some rights that cannot be performed by anybody else, but their holder. These rights are so personal and so intertwined with one’s personality that they are impossible to be performed by a proxy.

Any right that arises from parenthood is impossible to be signed off to a proxy. You can’t get married by sending someone else to the chapel with a PoA in their hands. The right to vote on national or regional elections can only be exercised in person (but voting within corporations or companies is generally within the rights that can be performed by an agent).

c) Illegal or criminal acts are well outside the scope of “rights” that can be conveyed with a Power of Attorney.

The purchase of contraband merchandise, if performed by a person, who claims that they are acting under a Power of Attorney, will still by a criminal act and both the principal and the agent will be held accountable as accomplices.

 

Not all Powers of Attorney are the same

Depending on the task to be performed by the agent on behalf of the principal, there are mainly three types of Power of Attorney. The general rule is that if a Notary Public would be necessary to draft and sign the main legal act, then a Notary Public needs to draft and sign the Power of Attorney. In addition to that, Greek Law demands a Notary Public’s Power of Attorney for some specific legal rights to be performed by a proxy. Having that in mind, we can distinguish between three different situations:

a) If you want your proxy to pick up your mail from the post office, connect your home’s landline, discontinue your cable service, apply for and receive a copy of your birth certificate, issue a tax ID number for you, or sell your car, you don’t need a Notary Public for your Power of Attorney. You only need to verify your signature on the PoA and you’re good to go.

b) If you want to buy/sell real estate, to appear in front of the Supreme Court, to participate in Family Law proceedings (divorce), but you don’t want to do it in person, you will need to ask a Notary Public to draft and sign a Power of Attorney. The Notary Public must be one of the registered ones in Greece, or a Consulate General in one of our Consulates abroad, or a foreign Notary Public, provided that the Power of Attorney is stamped with the Apostille (according to the Hague Convention).

c) If you want a lawyer to represent you in any or all legal proceedings for a specific case or a specified duration (up to five years), you will need to ask a Notary Public to draft up a General Judicial Power of Attorney.

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The Power is not without limits

The Power of Attorney expires as soon as the issue, for which it was drafted, is resolved. Using the same example of a real estate sale executed through a proxy equipped with a notarial Power of Attorney, as soon as the property is transferred and the transfer is registered, the PoA has no reason to exist any longer and it fades into oblivion, kept only in the archives to prove that the transfer was done legitimately in the name of the principal, through the hand of the agent.

Furthermore, the Power of Attorney dissolves when either the principal or the agent pass away, or become legally incapacitated.

Almost all Powers of Attorney can be freely revoked at any time. This revocation stops the effects of the PoA and prevents it from producing any legal effects in the future. It does not reverse the acts that have already been performed by the proxy. To retract the powers given to the proxy, you need to follow the exact same procedure as when you gave them those powers (Notary Public, etc.) and you need to notify the proxy and anyone else involved in those relevant legal acts. For example, if you had empowered your uncle with a simple PoA to regularly pick up your registered mail from the Post Office, but you realized that he is not doing such a great job at it, you can revoke the PoA, notify your uncle to stop going to the Post Office, and warn the employees at the Post Office not to accept your uncle any more as your agent.

The only exception to the freely revocable Power of Attorney is for those that are drafted for the sole benefit of the agent. This is easier to understand through an example: Let’s say you give a parcel of land to a contractor to build a condo building. The contractor gives you the money and you give him the Power of Attorney to transfer the titles to the new owners, when the condos will be finished. That Power of Attorney is irrevocable, because it is for the sole benefit of the agent (the contractor), since you have already received your money for the transfer of your land.

 

Necessary documentation for drafting a Power of Attorney

If you need a Power of Attorney, it is very likely that you should prepare yourself for a visit to the nearest Greek Consulate. Before you do that, please, contact me.  If you chose not to contact me, make sure to contact the Greek Consulate and try to book an appointment with the employee responsible for preparing the Powers of Attorney.

You will need to email them a draft of the PoA with all the specific legal acts to be performed by the agent (real estate sale or purchase, acceptance or renunciation of inheritance, withdrawal of monies, etc.) and everybody’s detailed personal information (your and your proxy’s full names, father’s name, mother’s name, full address, occupation, and Greek tax serial number).

In that email, you have to fill out and attach an application, along with scans of your Greek ID or passport and of your proxy’s Greek ID.

When the time of your appointment comes, you need to appear in person and you need to remember to bring your Greek ID or passport.

If you need a translator, the Consulate will provide one at a (significant) cost. And while we are on the topic of cost, every page of Power of Attorney will set you back around € 30.00 ($ 32.00), including your very own certified copy.

 

Power of Attorney: a great legal tool

Drafting, amending, correcting, preparing, signing, copying, or editing Powers of Attorney has been an almost daily occupation throughout my 20 years of legal experience. I will not claim that I’ve seen them all, but it certainly feels like it. I feel confident that I am ready to guide you through the legal maze and prepare the PoA that’s right for you.

Having travelled through the magnificent and mystical world of legal concepts and having witnessed the miraculous appearance of proxies, the signing of papers from afar, the transfer of property from persons other than the owners, you must admit that this wonderful legal tool, the Power of Attorney, is pretty magical!


Christos Kiosses blogs on legal issues, and answers questions live on The Chicago Greek Hours with Sotiris Rekoumis radio show, every Thursday at 9:00 am, on Chicago’s WEEF 1430AM or online.

Christos Kiosses

Foreign Legal Consultant at Law Offices of George C. Xamplas
Christos Kiosses is a Greek lawyer based in Chicago.

He is a Foreign Legal Consultant within the Law Offices of George C. Xamplas, serving the needs of Greeks living in the larger Chicago area and beyond with any legal issues they might have in Greece.

Prior to moving to the US, Christos practiced law for 20 years in Greece. A member of the Thessaloniki Bar Association since 1996, he has extensive experience in litigation, counseling, legal practice and negotiations. He is licensed to practice in Illinois, in Greece, and the European Union.

He specializes in the fields of Real Estate Law, Inheritance and Tax Law, Commercial and Civil Law, as well as Intellectual Property Law and Family Law. He also has experience litigating a variety of commercial and business-related claims and liability matters.

Christos has handled successfully a wide variety of cornerstone cases, creating in the process legal precedent in the Greek Legal System. Some examples include: battling fraudulent companies in a nationwide time-sharing scheme scandal, saving countless individuals in the process; achieving a landmark case against the Hellenic Mapping and Cadastral Organization, paving the way for hundreds of homeowners to reclaim their properties.

He is also an accredited US and EU civil and commercial mediator. In that capacity, he was involved in numerous successful courtside mediations.

Christos blogs on legal topics of interest to Greek Americans, at kiossesblog.com, and discusses these topics on a weekly radio show, The Chicago Greek Hours with Sotiris Rekoumis, which airs on Thursdays at 9:00 am (CST).

This article has 2 Comments

  1. Hi Christos,
    My grandfather left some land in Greece equally to his US-born children. My mother is the only one fluent in Greek, and she used to visit every few years to collect the rent. She is now in her nineties and has not visited or collected the rent for the last twenty years or so. Under Greek law, will the lands have reverted to common ownership? Or, if we (grandchildren) make the effort, would we be able to resume rent collection or otherwise use the property?
    Thanks!

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