What is a Notary?

What is a Notary?

images/original/IMG-7247.jpgNotaries are a separate legal profession from solicitors and barristers. They hold a position of public office. Notaries in England and Wales act and advise on exclusively cross border documentation. They notarise documents for registration or use in legal proceedings in other jurisdictions. This includes:

The Notary will verify your identity and ascertain that you are capable of signing the document sent to you by your foreign lawyer.

Where do Notaries come from?

Notaries first appeared in ancient Rome where they were recognised literate individuals called scribae or notarius or tabellio who were given legal authority to record events and draw up contracts. They were originally used by the Senate but quickly became an essential part of commerce as legal scribes throughout the Roman legal and commercial systems. There were no Notaries in England until the 13th Century when Pope Nicholas III appointed the first English Notaries in 1279. In 1533 Henry VIII established the Court of Faculties to appoint English Notaries under the authority of the crown. The Court of Faculties is still the body that appoints and oversees Notaries today.

What do they do?

images/original/IMG-7248.jpgYou will usually be asked to see a Notary to get a document notarised. Notarisation is the act of the Notary. This takes many forms depending on what the overseas lawyer has requested. The Notary may have to prepare a certificate to accompany the document or it may be a question of certifying a signature on the document itself. Notarisation can include attendance and taking notes and minutes at a meeting or other event.

Some documents also require the Apostille. This part of the process is called legalisation. It is the authentication of the Notary’s position by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. Under the Hague Convention of 1961 all signatories to that convention have a recognised body within their jurisdiction that double checks the acts of notaries and attaches a certificate, the Apostille, to documents sealed by Notaries. In the UK that body is the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. Once the Apostille is attached, the document can be used in Court or for registration in a foreign jurisdiction without further verification. The Apostille is required for documents being used in countries that are signatories to the Hague Convention, although other countries sometimes require it as an added formality.

How does the process work?

The Notary will need to meet with you in person. I find that the process is streamlined if I see scanned copies of the documents and your ID in advance.

I ask clients to send me, in advance of our meeting, the following scanned documents:

As part of my service to you and as a public officer I am required to retain copies of the notarised document so I will ask you to confirm to me in writing that you agree to my holding your data for these purposes.

I will tell you in advance how much it will cost you. This will be my fee, in accordance with my table of charges, plus the fee of any agents acting on my behalf to complete consular work, such as taking the document to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office or an overseas Embassy or High Commission. The costs will also include returning the document to you by Royal Mail Special Delivery or to your representative abroad by DHL.

What happens at the meeting?

Janet GoodeWhen we meet, I shall inspect your passport or ID document. I shall check any other documentation required and watch you sign the relevant document. I shall then complete the document with my seal and stamp or a separate certificate as necessary. I shall sew up the pages if there are more than one.

What happens to the document after our meeting?

If there is no requirement for further verification of my notarisation, I shall keep a copy and you can take the original away with you.

If further legalisation is required, such as obtaining the Apostille, I will retain the document and pass it to my consular agent to arrange for the Apostille to be affixed or for it to be presented to a foreign embassy or consulate as required. Once the legalisation is complete the document will be returned to you or can be sent directly to your overseas representative and a scanned copy will be sent to you for your records.