Think before witnessing documents

12 August, 2016

The Powers of Attorney Act 2014 (Vic) brought in a new requirement that the statement of acceptance signed by attorneys must be witnessed.

By signing the statement, the attorney agrees that they are eligible to act, understand their obligations and undertake to act in accordance with the Act. While this is not significantly different to the previous statement of acceptance, the obligations and risks for attorneys are arguably greater under the new Act.

  • The duties set out in the new Act are more extensive.
  • Attorneys can now be ordered to compensate a principal for a loss.
  • Attorneys may now be found guilty of an offence involving imprisonment or significant fine under the Act.

LPLC recommends that if sending a power of attorney they have prepared on behalf of a principal to an attorney, practitioners should:

  • include a link to or a copy of the information for attorneys on the Office of Public Advocate’s website and recommend that the attorney read it
  • confirm that the firm is not acting for the attorney and they should obtain their own advice about whether to accept the appointment.

If the attorney asks a practitioner in the firm who drew the power of attorney to witness their signature the practitioner should only do so if the attorney confirms they have read and understood the information from the Office of Public Advocate.