My usual office hours are 9 am to 5:30 pm, Monday to Friday and appointments are needed. Much notarial work is urgent and I will try and schedule appointments at short notice where possible.
Who is a Notary?
A notary is a qualified lawyer. Notaries are regulated by the Faculty Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Please see: www.facultyoffice.org.uk/notary. Notaries must comply with professional, anti-money-laundering and data protection regulations, are required to maintain professional indemnity insurance and must renew their practising certificates every year.
Notaries are specialists in international transactions. I have until recently also practiced as a solicitor specialising in international trade and maritime law. Notaries prepare legal documents and have special jurisdiction in relation to protests noted by the masters of ships and the protest of bills of exchange. Notaries are also authorised to administer the swearing of oaths and declarations.
Why are you seeing a Notary?
In many countries, legal documents only acquire the necessary status when they have been signed before a notary public who authenticates their contents and verifies the identity, capacity and will of the person signing. Such documents include contracts, land conveyances, powers of attorney, wills and corporate documents. The notary issues a notarial certificate, either attached to the document or on the document itself, signed by the notary and impressed with the notary’s seal.
What needs doing?
Your notarised document will be an essential step in achieving something, usually overseas. It must be in a form that is acceptable to the person or body who will be receiving it. As documentary requirements vary from country to country, it is crucial that you inform the notary of exactly what is needed from someone qualified in the destination country.
Seeing a Notary
Appointments My usual working hours are 9 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday. You will need to make an appointment. Most appointments are at my office in central Newcastle, but I can sometimes offer an appointment at a workplace, home, hospital or onboard ship.
Witnesses Please check the document and instructions you have received: you may need to sign in the presence of one or two independent witnesses (who will need identification) as well as the notary. You are responsible for arranging such witnesses, although I can sometimes provide witnesses if colleagues are available.
Acknowledgement of terms I will send you a Notarial Appointment Confirmation form to sign and return, by email or hand, in which you acknowledge that you have read and understood this Information Sheet, my Terms and Data Protection Notice.
Preparations Where possible, I try to complete a notarial assignment in one appointment. To help achieve this, please send the document(s) to be notarised and any instructions you have been given to me by email in good time. I will expect the document to have all blank spaces completed before the appointment, but it must not be signed.
Translations and interpretation If the document is not in English, or is in a language that you do not speak, a translation will be required. If you do not speak English, you will need to arrange for an interpreter to attend the appointment. I can assist with such arrangements for a further charge.
Identification Each person signing must produce (1) their current passport, (2) their latest council tax bill or utility bill dated within the last three months as evidence of you home address and (3) any further documents that I may require to comply with anti-money laundering regulations. Alternatives can be discussed if necessary. The name in your ID document must be the same as that in the notarised document – please bring your marriage certificate or deed poll on change of name if you have changed your name.
Authority to sign for a company or another person I will need proof of your authority to sign in a representative capacity for another person or for a company. When signing a power of attorney or other deed for a company you will need to provide a board resolution authorising your signing. I can assist with drafting the resolution. I will perform the necessary checks at Companies House.
Signing You and any witnesses must sign the document(s) in my presence.
Legalisation & Apostilles
Sometimes the receiving body overseas will require a further formality called “legalisation”. This is governmental certification of my notarial seal and signature. You will need to check if this is needed. For about 118 countries (including EU countries) this is performed by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office attaching a certificate called an Apostille, issued under a 1961 Hague Convention. For other countries, including China, legalisation involves the notarised document receiving an Apostille and then a consular certificate from the UK embassy of the relevant country. Some countries, e.g. Kuwait, also require a stamp from the Arab-British Chamber of Commerce.
If an Apostille or legalisation is required, you can either arrange that yourself or I can ask my Consular Agent to do so on your behalf. I will discuss with you the requirements, cost and timescale.
Some specific types of document
Birth, marriage and death certificates. Please note that it is not permissible to notarise a photocopy of these certificates. A spare Certified Copy of the Entry of Birth/Marriage/Death may be obtained from the General Register Office which can then be notarised and legalised: please see the online ordering website on the Links page of my website.
Affidavits. These documents often refer to “exhibits” – documents that are attached to the affidavit. These must be produced when you swear/affirm and sign the affidavit.
UK degree certificates. First, please check if you need the notary to certify the original parchment or a copy. Certifying degrees or copies usually requires the notary to verify the award with the issuing body. This is often done through HEDD (www.hedd.ac.uk). I will ask you to sign a data consent form that will permit the issuing body to give the necessary confirmation.
Company powers of attorney. These must comply with Companies Act 2006 and other legal requirements, otherwise they may not be valid or legally binding. If the draft document has been drafted by an overseas lawyer, I will need to check if the English law requirements have been met.