Why It’s Important To Get An Apostille Letter Before Travelling

Traffic jam in the morning with sun light include motorcycles cars trucks with overpass

My friend and I embarked on a journey to Dubai and Cyprus. Dubai was a fantastic seven-day experience, but our Cyprus leg of the trip took a terrifying turn the day before our return to the U.S. We decided to explore Cyprus on a rented motor scooter. My friend, Marcie, an experienced motorcycle enthusiast back home, was driving while I rode pillion. A pivotal difference to driving in Cyprus is Cypriots drive on the left side of the road, which led to a mishap. Marcie swerved into an oncoming sports car.

I was thrown from the scooter without injury, but Marcie took the full force of the accident and remained unconscious until help arrived. We were swiftly taken to Nicosia General Hospital. Shortly after our arrival, the police and the scooter rental owner arrived. Showing little empathy, they came to discuss the $6,500 in damages to the scooter and how we would cover it. They insisted that one of us stay on the island until the owner was compensated.

Panicked, as we couldn’t afford such a sum, I visited an American Express Travel Check office at the international airport in an attempt to use Marcie’s American Express card. However, customer service required I have Durable Power and an Apostille Letter for Marcie, naming me executor to process the payment, neither of which I had. With Marcie unconscious for nearly 10 days, I couldn’t make decisions for her. I contacted her parents, who flew to Cyprus to be by her side during her recovery and pay for the scooter. Q: Can you explain precisely what an Apostille Letter is, its effect upon Durable Powers of Attorney, and how it may have helped us? 

A: In 1981, the U.S. joined the Hague Apostille Convention, an agreement among approximately 90 member countries, and streamlined the process of legalizing documents by providing a standardized certificate called an Apostille recognized by member countries.  For example, had you and Marcie prepared legal documents in Florida before traveling, such as Durable Powers of Attorney and Health Care Proxies naming each other as executor for the other and certified your documents in Florida using an Apostille, then each of you may have been able to make health and financial decisions for one another in the event of catastrophe abroad. Although Dubai is not a member nation, Cyprus currently is, and you would have been able to present your durable powers for Marcie to an American Express airport travel office and collect any funds necessary.

When traveling abroad, attaching an Apostille to estate papers, marriage and dissolution agreements, school transcripts, birth/death certificates, or any notarized documents can be more convenient than navigating the laws of your destination country.

Whether with friends or family in a Hague Apostille Convention member nation, remember to bring a Durable Power of Attorney and a Health Care Surrogate. Before your trip, consult an estate planning attorney about Apostille information while abroad and documents necessary for your health, financial welfare and safety.

Written by Kristen Jackson

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