A power of attorney can be executed for just about anything in Chile. Powers of attorney should be limited in scope to particular tasks or goals, and they MUST be drafted by a qualified attorney. A poorly drafted power of attorney, after getting all the proper authorizations outside the country, can ultimately be rejected or accepted by each notary, government office, or private party in Chile, if not drafted correctly. The amount of effort and expense you need to validate a power of attorney inside of Chile, from outside Chile, makes it essential that the Power of Attorney be well drafted from the start.

First, Be careful with Powers of Attorney!!!

Remember, any power of attorney you sign is delegating your legal rights to someone else, and you are responsible for whatever that person may do with that power in your name.

Keep it simple, and only give powers of attorney to people you trust, and limited to the powers required to complete very specific tasks. We have seen a lot of foreigners get themselves in financial and legal trouble because they easily gave away far too broad of powers, in a power of attorney document. Many simply did this because they thought it might be convenient or save time; or, they thought the person they just met was very “nice”.

So, you have a power of attorney, drafted by a qualified attorney in Chile. Now, your first step is to make a decision about the easiest of two methods open to you to get a document notarized outside of Chile. The first is to simply find your nearest Chilean Consulate and go there to sign it. Normally the document must be sent in advanced to the consulate, and an appointment made to visit. Your Chilean attorney should assist you with this process of scheduling to sign at a consulate.

The second option is to have the document notarized by a local notary from your home country, then have that signature legalized by your State department legalization office ( or your countries equivalent ), followed by having the document mailed to the Chilean consulate responsible for your area to validated it in your home country.

The procedures will often differ from country to country, document to document, and ultimately may depend on the purpose of the document. We caution that legalization for Chile, is not the same as an apostille certificate. The apostille is a mechanism under the Hague convention for member countries to recognize documents from other members countries. Chile is only became a party to the Hague convention on document legalization in 2017. Other countries may need to complete the traditional process of legalizing documents. 

The first method of directly signing a Power of Attorney at the Chilean consulate is the preferred method because it leads to the least number of potential mistakes. We have had numerous problems with foreign legalization of local notary signatures. Stamps get missed, offices and signatures get missed, and common foreign practices can often be confusing to the parties accepting the power of attorney in Chile at the end of the process. By signing at the Chilean consulate, you are directly notarizing a Chilean document.

Going to the local consulate is often not a problem, if for example you live in a major international city such as Los Angeles, New York, or London. If however the time and expense involved in reaching your nearest Chilean consulate is too high or simply impossible, legalizing a local notary signature may be your only option. It simply needs to be done carefully, and be properly supervised by your Chilean attorney to insure that no critical steps are missed.

Legalizing for Chile and foreign Notary Signatures
Every country has a slightly different system for legalizing documents for countries that are not party to the Hague Convention. For example, in the United States there is a legalization service that handles pushing the document through the various levels of State and Federal offices to authenticate that the notary is in fact authorized to notarize documents in the United States. In whatever country you have it done, each signature of each official above the notary must certify the chain of authority for that notary all the way to your foreign ministry or state department level. So, you can see where there are lots of ways for things to go wrong or be missed.

Once you receive all the legalization or authentication of the signature of your local notary public inside your country, you must then send the document to the Chilean Embassy to have them finally certify that all the authorizations are legal and valid for that country. In our experience however we have discovered that from consulate to consulate this can be done with different levels of care.

Regardless of what method you use to notarize the document outside of the Chile, once the document arrives in Chile it must go to the Chilean Foreign Affairs Office in Santiago to have the Chilean Consul's signature in the foreign country authenticated, in order for the document to be a valid legal instrument in Chile.

This might all seem very complicated, and we highly urge you to seek professional assistance with the process, but this system is also designed to protect you and the public in Chile from shady or illegal deals. It makes it extremely difficult for someone to use a forged power of attorney in Chile. The legalization process and public notary system in Chile also has the added benefits of helping to cut down on legal cost and time, should you ever need to go to court. The authenticity of properly legalized and notarized documents rarely needs to be questioned in Chile. The purpose of legalization, in part, is to relieve each government office or private party, from needing to individually authenticate every foreign document. The document is recognized as a fully legal document in Chile by all third-parties.

So the easiest method, if at all possible, is to sign a power of attorney or your contract directly inside Chile at a notary public while you are in Chile. Ideally you should plan ahead, if you are visiting Chile and know you will not be able to be present for some official function after you leave. Second, if you can not sign in person inside Chile, try to make plans to visit your nearest Chilean consulate to sign a power of attorney for Chile or other Chilean documents requiring notarization in Chile.

Only as a last resort should you depend on the long and sometimes costly process of legalizing your local notary's signature in your home country. This also must be done with other documents generated in a foreign country such as birth certificates and marriage certificates. It is not impossible, it simply must be done with care.

About the Author:
Zandra Valenzuela is a Chilean Attorney at Law and a professor of international law. Zandra specializes in private international law and international jurisdictional issues, and is senior legal council at Spencer Global.