STEWART PETER HARRIS
INSTRUCTING A NOTARY PUBLIC:
GUIDANCE NOTES FOR CLIENTS
These notes are intended to help you understand the work that the Notary Public has to do. I hope that they may save time and expense, both for you and me. They are neither exhaustive, nor definitive, but are intended as a guide only. Also, not every point covered will apply in every case.
- WHO ARE NOTARIES PUBLIC?
A Notary is a qualified lawyer – a member of the third and oldest branch of the legal profession in the United Kingdom. We are appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and are subject to regulation by the Court of Faculties. The rules, which affect Notaries, are very similar to the rules, which affect Solicitors. We must be fully insured maintaining cover for the protection of their clients and the public. We must keep clients’ money separately from the business and comply with stringent rules of practice, conduct and discipline. A Notary Public in England has many of the same responsibilities as Notaries in European countries. Anyone who has dealings with a Notary Public in the USA may be surprised at the different formalities and cost over here. The role and responsibility of the Notary Public in the United States is very different.
- NOT A MERE RUBBER-STAMPING EXERCISE:
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 and to Governments or official 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
- To rely on the Notary’s register and records.
Great care is essential at every stage to minimise the risks of errors, omissions, alterations, fraud, forgery, money laundering, the use of false identity, and so on.
As a Notary, I have to act independently; my overriding duty is “to the transaction”.
The Notary should normally witness your signature. Please do not jump the gun by signing the document in advance of your appointment with me.
Since I cannot certify signatures if I have not seen the signature actually made, this means that in practice, there must be an attendance before me in the vast majority of cases. In some cases, however, I can verify documents which do not require signature without the client being present, since, for example in the case of company documents, I can make a search in the electronic records held at Companies House.
Nevertheless, in most cases a personal attendance is essential, and even where the client does not have to sign anything, I may still need to meet, so as to verify the appearance of the client in the case of an ID document, such as a passport, or to compare the copy I have previously been sent (see 5 below) with the original.
- PAPERS TO BE SENT TO ME IN ADVANCE:
It can save time, expense, and mistakes if, as long before the appointment as possible, you can let me have the originals or photocopies of:
- The documents to be notarised;
- Any letter or other form of instruction which you have received about what has to be done with the documents;
- Your evidence of identification.
This helps me in 2 ways:
- I can normally see from the scanned copies of the documents if any additional information is needed, or if there are any potential problems or difficulties in doing the required certifications;
- I can often prepare, or start to prepare, the certificates in advance, so that you do not have to wait when you attend.
Usually, scanned copies of documents attached to an e-mail, are best. Please do not include them in the body of the e-mail, as this makes them difficult to print, if I need to do so.
Also, it is usually best if you send me the document(s) in WORD format, rather than as a PDF, since I cannot amend PDF documents.
I will need you to produce by way of formal identification the original of (in preferred order):
- Your current passport (or, if not available);
- A current new driving licence (with photo)
If neither of the above are available, at least two of the following:
- A current old style driving licence (without photo); or other formal means of identification;
- A utility bill showing your current address;
- Any other means of ID, which may be referred to in the papers, sent to you as being required.
- If any of the above do not incorporate a good photographic likeness, please be ready to let me have a recent photograph for me to retain with my records.
- PROOF OF NAMES:
In a case where the name on the document is different from the name you are currently using, or there has been a variation in the form of spelling of the name over the years, please provide me with, e.g. Certificates of Birth, Baptism, Marriage, or a Divorce Decree. If there has been a change of name, then I will need to see a copy of the Deed Poll or Statutory Declaration, which dealt with it.
- CHAIN OF EVIDENCE:
Notarisation is accepted as a safeguard under international law. The signature and seal of the Notary are recognized as a link in the chain of evidence relating to international documents. If therefore I seem to you to be a bit fussy over minor details, please understand the responsibility placed on me!
- EXAMINING THE EVIDENCE:
Accordingly, careful examination by the Notary is required to check whether both the document to be notarised and your personal ID are original, genuine, valid, complete, accurate and unaltered.
- INCOMPLETE DOCUMENTS:
The Notary has to check that each document to be notarized is fully completed. Unfortunately, many documents produced as ready for signature have blank spaces left in them, not always intentionally! This occurs even when other lawyers or professional advisers have prepared them. If you can help in identifying the information needed to complete any blanks in documents, it will save time when we meet. However, please do not mark the document itself until I have seen it.
- ADVICE ON THE DOCUMENT:
If you bring a document to me for authorisation as a Notary, I will advise you as to the formalities required for completing it. However, I shall not be attempting to advise you about the transaction itself, and you must seek such advice from your own lawyers or persons asking you to have the document signed before me.
- WRITTEN TRANSLATIONS:
It is important that you understand what you are signing.
- Sometimes a professional translation is required.
- If it is in a foreign language, which you do not understand sufficiently, I may have to insist that a translation be obtained. If I arrange for a translation, a further fee will be payable.
- Unless you have a good understanding of the language yourself, an informal or amateur translation is rarely satisfactory.
- If you arrange for a professional translation, the translator should add his/her name, address, relevant qualifications, and a certificate stating: “Document X is a true and complete translation of document Y, to which this translation is attached.”
- ORAL INTERPRETER:
If you and I cannot understand each other because of a language difficulty, we may have to make arrangements for a competent interpreter to be available at our interview and this may involve a further fee.
- COMPANIES, PARTNERSHIPS, ETC:
If a document is to be signed by you on behalf of a company, a partnership, a charity, club or other incorporated body, there are further requirements on which I may have to insist. Please be prepared for these and telephone with any point of difficulty before attending on the appointment.
In each case:
- Evidence of indentity of the authorised signatory (as listed above).
- A copy of the current letterhead (showing the registered office if it is a company).
- A Letter of Authority, Minute, Resolution or Power of Attorney, authorising you to sign the document.
- In some instances I may have to see a copy of the latest Annual Accounts; the latest Tax Assessment, the latest quarterly VAT Return.
- Certificate of Incorporation and of any Change of Name.
- A copy of the Memorandum and Articles of Association.
- Details of Directors and Secretaries.
Additionally, partnerships, clubs etc:
- A Partnership Agreement; or relevant Trust Deed; or Charter, or Constitution/Rules.
I may have to insist on seeing originals of these documents. If you do show me photocopies, they would have to be certified on behalf of the person holding the originals and who may not be able to release them. The certificate should be in the following form:
“I certify that this (with the following …. Pages) is a true and complete copy of the original document which is currently held by me.
Full name of signatory:
Who certifies in his/her capacity as
Signature ……………………………… Date ……………………
- NOTARIAL CHARGES AND EXPENSES:
- My charges: My current hourly rate is £200.00. My minimum charge for dealing with a single document is normally £90.00. This does not include expenses such as legalisation or translation fees. The overall fee is based on the amount of work required. Thus, in general, the more documents, the higher the charge.
- Any quote or estimate I give you will be based on the information you give me initially. If you tell me that only one document is to be certified, and it later turns out that there is a number of them, I reserve the right to charge additional fees.
- Once I have seen any documents and any instructions sent to you about the document, I may be able to give you a firm indication or an estimate of the likely charges.
- Payments out on your behalf: I may have to pay legalization fees to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and/or a Foreign Embassy. There might be translator or interpreter fees. Other payments may be required including, traveling expenses. Your approval to these will be obtained and you are normally required to make payment in advance of any such amounts.
- Basis of charging: If it is a simple matter of witnessing a document, a fixed fee will be charged. If there are complications or if I am required to draft a document, or obtain legalisation, the charge will be based upon time spent. This may include telephone calls made or received, letters sent and received, time spent in interview, on drafting, and on preparing the necessary entries in my notarial register.
- Special factors which might result in an increase in the charge include:
- Complexity or novelty
- The number and importance of the documents
- If the work has to be done away from this office
- Special urgency, which may require me to drop other work to deal with yours or if the work unavoidably has to be dealt with outside office hours.
- Payment: My notarial charges are normally payable upon signature of the document requiring notarisation and I reserve the right to retain any completed document until payment has been received.
- I can accept cheques, cash, or bank transfer in payment of my fees and any disbursements. I am happy to provide bank details if requested. I cannot currently accept card payment.
- NOTARIAL RECORDS:
When I carry out my work for you, I am required to make an entry in a formal register, which is kept by me as a permanent record. I will retain a copy of the notarised documentation with that record, in the case of “Public” documents I will keep a copy bearing your original signature on it so I can issue further certified copies if required to do so in the near future by you. I can be required to deal with queries from, e.g. foreign lawyers, Land Registries or Embassies to confirm the fact that you saw me. I am required to keep the copy documents for a minimum of 12 years, and in some cases, permanently, under current rules.
This is a subject which often causes confusion, and it should be clearly understood that “notarisation”, and “legalisation”, are 2 different things, although they may both be required in the same transaction.
Notarisation is the initial certification by the notary, who carries out such of the actions discussed in the preceding paragraphs as may be necessary.
But notarisation is often not the only certification required by a foreign country. Sometimes, after the UK notary has certified a document, it must then be additionally certified by the Foreign Office with an “Apostille”. This is a certificate, indorsed on the document, that the signature and seal of the notary are genuine. I have deposited copies of my signature and seal with HM Foreign Office, so they can compare what is on the document with their records.
In addition to the Apostille, some foreign countries require documents to be certified by their UK embassy. This is known as “Consular” legalisation.
Please note that legalisation may take some time. If it is needed, therefore, and especially if time is short because of a deadline, you should contact me as soon as possible. Otherwise, the documents may not be available in the foreign country in time.
One of the most common problems in dealing with notarial matters, is that clients leave it until the last minute to contact me, and there may not then be sufficient time to deal with the legalisation.
If Consular Legalisation is required, I normally instruct agents to deal with it on my behalf, as it usually involves personal attendances at HM Foreign Office, and at the foreign embassy, which is usually situated in London. If this is needed, therefore, I will usually obtain a quote from the agent, for approval, before proceeding.
In any case, legalisation involves fees in addition to my own fee, which never includes legalisation.
In cases in which I am asked to certify a document, for example, a degree certificate, I normally need to verify its genuineness. This is because such documents are relatively easy to forge, using modern digital technology. I shall in those cases need to contact the issuing authority and ask them to confirm that the document is genuine. This may take some time, and I shall almost always need a form of authority from you. They often, in addition, charge a fee.
I hope that these notes (which are intended as a guide only, and are not intended to be exhaustive, or definitive) are of help to you in understanding what is expected of each of us.
Stewart Peter Harris
18, Winsford Crescent,
UK ST16 2LF