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Hooray for the Notary Public!

Hooray for the Notary Public!

Hooray for the Notary Public!

Date: February 16, 2017

Most people do not even know that notaries exist until they need one. The smallest and oldest branch of the legal profession, it is also possibly the most obscure. Notaries can trace their professional lineage back to the Romans and it is a great privilege to be a part of this most ancient and noble profession.

But what is a notary, I hear you cry? The low profile of the notary results from most of their particular rights and duties having been eroded over centuries by solicitors and barristers, leaving a very narrow field of specialism. Most of the work of a notary relates exclusively to overseas matters. Whether you are litigating in the USA, selling property in Spain or dealing with inheritance in France, many other countries require the intervention of a notary into a transaction in order to authenticate signatures or certify documents.

Most notaries are also solicitors (as I am) and practice in various fields. Some notaries, although relatively few, also undertake conveyancing and probate work as notaries. Notaries, however, have an entirely separate system of regulation. Not for us the new-fangled Solicitors Regulation Authority or the Bar Standards Board. We are regulated by the incredibly grand sounding Master of Faculties, who also holds the title of Dean of the Arches and is a functionary of the Archbishop of Canterbury (and who, despite his very impressive title, is extremely personable).

So what might you need a notary for? Here is just a taster of the type of thing that I have done in the past:

  • Swearing affidavits for use in Scottish proceedings

  • Authenticating signatures for transfers of overseas patents

  • Dealing with powers of attorney for Spanish property transactions

  • Providing copies of grants of probate for dealing with overseas assets

  • Certifying copy documents for setting up a Russian subsidiary of a UK company

  • Formalising documents for the sale of timeshares in Florida

Notaries are pretty thin on the ground, as there are only about 850 of us in the whole of England and Wales. For example, there are only three notaries in the whole of York. However, if you need us, you can find us through the websites of the Faculty Office or the Notaries Society. And we don’t speak in Latin, promise!