A Notary is a qualified lawyer – a member of the third and oldest branch of the legal profession in the United Kingdom. Notaries are appointed by the Court of Faculties of the Archbishop of Canterbury and are subject to regulation by the Master of the Faculties.
The rules which affect Notaries are very similar to the rules which affect Solicitors. They must be fully insured and maintain fidelity cover for the protection of their clients and the public.
They must keep clients’ money separately from their own and comply with stringent practise rules and rules relating to conduct and discipline.
Notaries have to renew their practising certificates every year and can only do so if they have complied with the rules.
Notaries are primarily concerned with the authentication and certification of signatures, authority and capacity relating to documents for use abroad.
They are also authorised to conduct general legal practice (excluding the conduct of court proceedings) such as conveyancing and probate. They may exercise the powers of a Commissioner for Oaths.
The majority of Notaries Public also practise as solicitors but the Scrivener Notaries do not, nor do some 150 of the general notaries.
The Faculty Office
The Faculty Office is the administrative body of which the Master of the Faculties is head. Part of its responsibilities is the governance of the notaries. The Registrar of the Faculty Office oversees the training and qualification of notaries, has the responsibility for issuing the faculty and the annual practising certificate which, together, enable them to practise.
The Notaries Society has prepared a leaflet about the profession which we hope will be of interest. Versions in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish and Polish are available below.
Every Notary has an official seal. Most are unique and engraved with a personal symbol. Notarial acts with this impressed seal and signed by a Notary are universally recognised and any facts they contain are treated as the evidence of a responsible legal officer.
Indeed, the Court rules for England and Wales expressly state that, “Any notarial act. . . may be received in evidence without further proof . . .unless the contrary is proved.”
A Notary prepares, witnesses or certifies documents going abroad. Often a document will have been prepared by a foreign lawyer. They include powers of attorney, sworn statements, contracts, property papers and certificates of law.
Documents that are handled by a Notary are referred to as“notarial acts”. These may be in public or private form – the latter largely confined to witnessing signatures. An act in public form is required where a Notary confirms facts which he or she has verified personally.
Notaries must verify for each client their identity, legal capacity and understanding of the document as well as their authority if
signing on behalf of another party such as a limited company.
As qualified lawyers, Notaries may also carry out all other types of legal work apart from litigation (court work). This is similar to the position of continental Notaries who operate under the civil law system.
Accordingly, Notaries here may handle property transactions, make wills and administer the estates of someone who has died.