I’m really grateful for all the positive feedback so many of you have given to my new website and these blogs.  Please keep that coming in and if there are any topics you’d like me to go over do shout up.  As you’ll have seen if you’ve come this far into my website, the work of notaries is often misunderstood by other legal professionals, let alone the general public.    I’ve therefore been trying to distil it down into a simple sentence and this is the best I can come up with so far.

A notary “authenticates” legal documents for use abroad when that authentication is insisted upon by the foreign country

It’s usually the case that the document in question has been prepared by someone else (but the notary will prepare some documents from time to time) and the client’s expectation is that a notary just rubber stamps those and signs it off.  Hopefully these articles will explain the mechanics of the process in a little more detail.

To qualify as a notary nowadays takes two years of academic training (usually on top of a law degree and a period in practice as a lawyer) and two years of supervision from an experienced notary practitioner.

In that time we have to become familiar with a range of documents used in other legal  jurisdictions, the rules and requirements of those jurisdictions (even down to the number of witnesses required and the colour of ink used!) and follow a careful process to ensure that the client’s document is authenticated properly and will be valid abroad.

We don’t therefore just watch you sign your name, then sign ours and attach a fancy seal!

To paraphrase very greatly what we will do in each case is:

1                     Identify the appearer

2                     Check they have legal Capacity to sign

3                     Check they have Authority to sign (eg: if they are signing on behalf of a company)

4                     Check they have the Will or Understanding of what they are doing

If all this is in order then we can proceed.   Checking it through however takes time and is reflected in our fee, not least because notaries are often said to owe a duty of care to the transaction as a whole, anyone else involved with it, and not merely the person who came to see them

This process is most frequently felt to be ‘over the top’ by those who have experienced using notaries in the United States where different rules apply (but where in consequence the fee charged will often be much less).    Accordingly the more advance notice you can give your notary (with copies of the paperwork to be notarised), the better!