Seeing a Notary
A Notary is an internationally recognised legal officer who can authenticate signatures, documents and facts.
A Notary Public's main duty is to authenticate documents and facts for use outside England and wales. These can deal with a wide range of activities including overseas property transactions, administration of the affairs of people who have died, commercial transactions in other countries, court proceedings and immigration matters.
Notaries are appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The practice of a Notary Public is entirely separate from a solicitors practice although notaries will conduct much of their work from the solicitors’ office.
A notary's practice is supervised by the Faculty Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury and not the Law Society.
Each matter is individual, but usually the notary will:
- Ask you to make an appointment
- Require you to bring good evidence of identity; generally this will have to be a current valid passport and something like a council tax or electricity bill confirming your address. All transactions by limited companies need to be supported by similar evidence of the identity of the appearing officers of the company and in some cases the relevant resolutions authorising the transaction.
- Need to be satisfied that you understand any documents, particularly a document which is not in English.
- Want to see any relevant papers or documents that relate to the matter.
It would be very helpful if you can send a copy of your documents to the notary before your appointment.
Role of the Notary
It is not the role of the notary to advise you on the effect of the documents and you should therefore obtain advice from foreign lawyers acting for you in the transaction. The notary's duty is limited to ensuring that you understand the sort of transaction you are entering into. This means that if the documentation is in a foreign language then a translation may be required.
What does it cost?
There are no set charges. Fees will be appropriate to the level of service offered and in accordance with the rules made by the Faculty Office.
For most matters a set fee will be agreed in advance. For more complex matters the fee will be assessed on the time involved and complexity of the transaction. You will always be provided with an indication of the fees before any work is started on your behalf.
You should also be aware that there may be fees payable to third parties, such as the Foreign Office or an Embassy. Details of these additional fees will be provided at the start.
How long will it take?
If the document is straightforward, already prepared and in the correct form, an appointment is likely to take around 15-20 minutes. It will take longer of a document is not straightforward.
Many countries want documents to be countersigned by their London Embassy. This is a process known as legislation and will take several days unless you want to take the documents to the Embassy in person and wait in line. The fees and procedures for this vary widely, but the notary should be able to give you a reasonably accurate idea of the time and cost.
Appointments will be available during normal office hours. It may be possible to make an appointment to see you out of hours or out of the office if it is necessary but this will cost more and take longer.