Notaries are qualified lawyers. They are the oldest legal profession in the country and can trace their roots back to 1533 when Henry VIII split from the Church of Rome and, even now, Notaries practise under the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury and are regulated by the Court of Faculties. The representative body for Notaries is the Notaries Society which was founded in 1882.
Most of the 800 or so Notaries in England are also Solicitors who go on to undertake further training and exams by way of a post-graduate course and a period of supervision by an experienced Notary. The authority to practise as a Notary is given by the Court of Faculties by way of a “Faculty” which is a hand-written parchment document signed under the seal of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Notary then takes the Oath of Allegiance to Her Majesty and can then practise as a fully-fledged Notary.
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.
Most people come into contact with a Notary when they are buying a property abroad. Many jurisdictions require the buyers and sellers to be personally present to complete the transfer of the property and so I am often asked to deal with Powers of Attorney so that the client can appoint their own lawyer in the foreign country to represent them during the transaction. Another common document I am asked to deal with is a child’s consent to travel, where one parent authorises the other or a grandparent to accompany a child alone on a foreign trip. Most jurisdictions require such documents to be attested or witnessed by a Notary.
For commercial clients, documents witnessed by Notaries have been recognised and accepted throughout the world. Anyone with business abroad may rely on a Notary to provide acceptable documentation quickly and at a reasonable cost.