What is a Notary Public
A Notary Public is a specialist lawyer who holds an internationally recognised public office and who is authorised to authenticate documents for use abroad by creating notarial acts and may be required to authenticate documents for use in transactions abroad.
A Notary provides a guarantee of certain matters in the act; that the act is lawful and has not been entered into as the result of fraud or violence, that the act is not part of a money-laundering scheme or a scheme for the transfer of terrorist funds, the identity of the person appearing before the notary is guaranteed, as is that persons mental and statutory capacity, understanding of the document and their willingness to be bound by it.
Most Notaries are also solicitors, but the notary profession is entirely separate, with a different regulator, their own rules, and code of practice. The rules which affect Notaries are very similar to the rules which affect Solicitors. They must be fully insured and maintain fidelity cover for the protection of their clients and the public. They must keep clients’ money separately from their own and comply with stringent practice rules and rules relating to conduct and discipline. Notaries must renew their practising certificates every year and can only do so if they have complied with the Notaries Practice Rules.
Notaries are primarily concerned with the authentication and certification of signatures, authority, and capacity relating to documents for use abroad.
The most common tasks include:
- Preparing and authenticating powers of attorney for use overseas
- Dealing with purchase or sale of land and property abroad
- Authenticating foreign wills and providing documents to deal with the administration of the estates of people who are abroad, or owning property abroad
- Authenticating personal documents and information for immigration or emigration purposes, or to apply to marry or to work abroad, such as education or professional qualifications or declarations of freedom to marry
- Authenticating company and business documents and transactions or providing certificates as to the status of a company or the identity of its directors
Legalisation is the process by which the signature and seal of the Notary are authenticated by the Foreign Office and/or the Embassy or Consulate of the country in which the document is to be used. This is generally required by countries who are signatories to the Hague Convention. Legalisation requirements are determined by the country where the document is going to be relied upon, often referred to as the receiving jurisdiction, not by the UK government.
Documents going to countries which are, or have been, part of the British Commonwealth seldom need legalisation nor, at present, do documents going to many parts of the United States.
Many countries require only one certificate from the Foreign Office called an Apostille. Some countries want the Apostille from the Foreign Office and a further certificate from their own Embassy. There are other procedures that apply only to a few countries, and there can be problems if a document is to be used in a country with which the United Kingdom does not have diplomatic relations.