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About Notaries

There is more to a Notary than what meets the eye. Many clients will think all they need is ‘a signature’ or ‘a stamp’ so to help clarify :-

What is a Notary Public?

There are three main strands to the legal profession of England and Wales. Solicitors and barristers, however the third and oldest is the lesser known Notary Public. The role of a Notary can be traced continuously from the Roman Empire.
There are currently around 900 Notaries in England and Wales. Most Notaries already practice as solicitors, or occasionally barristers Notaries are regulated differently and seen as a completely separate profession.

Notaries are appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and are regulated by the Court of Faculties. This is since The Ecclesiastical Licences Act 1533, when Henry VIII passed on the authority to appoint Notaries to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Notarial Practice Rules are very similar to the rules which affect solicitors. Notaries must be fully insured maintaining cover for the protection of their clients and the public. They must keep clients’ money separately from their business and comply with stringent rules of practice, conduct and discipline.

The Notary’s Role

The main role of a Notary is as a public certifying officer to deal with transactions relating to matters overseas. Notaries provide independent proof of documents, transactions and facts to the satisfaction of authorities overseas.

This is not the same as Notaries in other countries, who are mostly appointed by the state to deal with their own country’s legal system, rather than dealing internationally. These Notaries require different training methods, for example, in America Notaries do not need to have any legal training at all and only need to pass a short, simple test. The international recognition of a Notary of England and Wales is what makes us so unique.

Notarisation is not just ‘rubber-stamping’ a document

As a Notary, I must act independently; my overriding duty is "to the transaction".

The international duty of a Notary involves a high standard of care. This is not only towards you as the client but also to anyone who may rely on the document, this includes Governments or officials of other countries. These people are entitled to:-

  • assume that a Notary will ensure full compliance with the relevant requirements both here and abroad; and,
  • rely on the Notary’s register and records.

Attention to detail is essential at every stage to minimise the risks of errors, omissions, alterations, fraud, forgery, money laundering, the use of false identity.

What is an Apostille

Required for documents which are to be used overseas, in countries who are parties to The Hague Convention 1961. In the UK this is done by the Foreign and  Com-monwealth Office. Once signed by the Notary, the document needs to be presented to a C.F.O. officer, who will check the credentials of the authorising Notary and affix a  certicate or Apostille on the notarised document. This incurs additional costs.

Consular legalisations

Required for documents which are to be used in countries who are not parties to The Hague Convention 1961. This is often provided by their local consulates in the UK. The consular officer will examine the document and place a certificate confirming the validity of the notarised document. Timescales for legalisation depend on the Consu-late. This incurs additional costs.