Notarial Questions

Unless you have used a Notary Public before, you will have several questions that we would be more than happy to talk through with you in detail. The following are the most common questions that people usually ask prior to selecting or using a Notary Public.

What does notarisation mean?

Really an American term for "notarially certify" but notarise looks to have won this North Atlantic verbal battle. This means the act by a notary of certifying a signature or issuing a certificate. There is no statutory restriction on what a notary is allowed to attest to.

What does authentification mean?

The same as notarisation.

What is the role of identification?

All signatories must be identified personally (by production of original passport). Certificates involving a single signatory and/or an officer who is not either, a director or the company secretary and/or a non-English company can require detailed and complex investigation.

Why do I need a passport?

As a result of increasing fraud and the advent of money laundering regulations, this is the preferred document for individual identification. However, other documents can suffice e.g. a driving licence containing the signatory's photograph.

What is a certificate or a notarial certificate?

The core function of a notary which is to issue certificates attesting to facts witnessed by or proved to him and attested under his signature and seal.

What is a seal?

Every notary has his or her own die-cast or embossed seal, usually containing a unique design or crest, the words "notary public" and his or her name.

Do I need a notary for a power of attorney?

If for use overseas, this is the document most frequently needing notarisation.

What does legalisation mean?

Legalisation means the certification of a signature and seal of a notary by a consular or diplomatic authority.

In most transactions, legalisation will be achieved by a document being certified ("apostille") by The Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Whitehall, London.

The notary derives his or her authority from the royal prerogative. However, whereas the royal prerogative is sufficient to give the notary authority in England & Wales, it is meaningless to give the notary authority abroad. As the need for a notary is almost always in connection with a foreign country, international transactions would be severely hampered if there was not a mechanism whereby the authority of an English notary was recognised abroad.

This mechanism is provided by the process of legalisation as described in the opening paragraph of this section. Once the English notary's seal and signature has been legalised, it must be accepted by authorities abroad.

What is an apostille?

A specific form of legalisation originally created by the Convention of 5th October 1961 of the Hague Conference on Private International Law. Information as to which countries have signed the Convention is available from the office.

How is the Foreign Office involved?

It is the UK mainland monopoly provider of apostille legalisation and also needed for many non-apostille countries.

How do I get translations?

This is one of the most important services traditionally provided by notaries. We have contacts with a number of firms of translators and translations of most languages can usually be arranged quite easily and quickly but this will be at the client's cost. Please enquire at the office as to the availability of such facilities.

What does escritura mean?

This is a Spanish (or Portuguese) word popularly believed to mean title deed to real property but actually only means an instrument in writing.

What is a Bill of Exchange?

This is a negotiable instrument of declining importance in trade finance but dishonoured (unpaid) Bills of Exchange are still noted and protested by notaries.

What is the Faculty Office?

This is the regulatory body for all notaries practising in England and Wales.

The current rule structure covers essentially similar ground to solicitors and accountants i.e. ethical practice, client monies, discipline as well as training and admission.

What is a general notary?

These are notaries public in England and Wales who are not scrivener notaries. They are usually solicitors though this is not a requirement.

What does Protest mean?

This is a form of certificate used to record dishonour of a Bill of Exchange.

What is a Protocol?

This is a special form of register of notarial acts drawn up in the civil law "authentic" form. Also adopted on a voluntary basis by notaries.

What records are kept?

Notaries must keep extensive records (but not necessarily full copies) of all their certificates and annexed documents, in some cases permanently. These are all private records available only to clients or under statutory exceptions.

Must I visit your office?

Notaries do not only see clients at their office but also attend at client premises.

This is on a fee basis but avoids management down-time. We also provide an E-Notarization service that may allow some transactions to take place on-line.