Brexit backlash: New ruling threatens hundreds of expats’ court cases

The effects of Brexit appear to have reached some Spanish government offices, including some courts of law

LAST UPDATED: 8 Dec, 2016 @ 09:00
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Antonio Flores
Antonio Flores

THE effects of Brexit appear to have reached some Spanish government offices,
including some courts of law.

The Directorate General of Registrars and Notaries (DGRN), a regulatory body equivalent to the UK Notaries Society, has recently issued a startling ruling rejecting the validity of all Powers of Attorney (PoA) granted by a qualified United Kingdom “Notary Public”, on grounds that the authority and competence of these British professionals is not equivalent to that of their Spanish peers.

The ruling went as far as unbelievably stating that only UK-qualified “notaries-at-law” or “lawyer notaries” could validly issue powers of attorney, negating this prerogative to plain “notaries public”.

As was expected and with immediate effect, the erratic decision sent shock waves throughout the network of thousands of professionals, directly or indirectly, involved with expat legal work.

And for a reason: hundreds of court cases could be dismissed (one of Lawbird Legal Services’ cases among many), thousands of property transactions could be voided (on the upside, along with their mortgage loans) whenever such PoAs were used and overall, legal chaos.

Alerted by this misguided ruling, the Notaries Society, based in Ipswich, issued the following statement:

1. A Notary is a qualified lawyer whose work is recognized internationally, unlike the work of Solicitors. The primary function of a Notary therefore, is the preparation of documents and the authentication of clients’ identities and signatures principally for use abroad.

2. Some Notaries are also “Scriveners”, who mostly operate in London.

3. “Notaries-at-law” or “lawyer notaries” do not exist as a separate profession.

Hundreds of Spanish Notaries and Registrars, fully aware that their regulator’s historical cock up would certain bring embarrassment to their reputation but more importantly, cause incalculable financial damage, have taken an unusual step: completely ignore this binding ruling and fully accept the Powers of Attorney correctly granted by UK Notaries Public.

And as if to soften the blow, the International Law Registrars Council has issued a non-binding report where it is confirmed that documents signed by UK Notaries Public, who are appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and are regulated by laws as ancient as the Ecclesiastical Licences Act 1533, an Act of the Parliament of England.

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