What is a Notary ?

Most English notaries public are also solicitors but the two professions are separate and notarial practice is entirely separately from any solicitors practice a notary may be involved in.

About Notaries Public

Historically notaries public are the oldest branch of the legal profession in England and Wales, older than either solicitors or barristers. Until the Reformation in the sixteenth century notaries were authorised by the Pope; since then English notaries have been under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury and this remains the case today.

Under the Legal Services Act notaries public are regulated by the Faculty Office of

Nowadays only rarely do notaries public deal with documents for use in this country.
They are almost exclusively concerned with documents for use abroad. A properly legalised
certificate signed and sealed by a notary public will be relied on in most countries of the
world as verification of the matters certified.

Among other things, a notary public may be asked to certify all or any of the following:

  • that a document is genuine;
  • that a copy of a document is an accurate and complete copy of it;
  • that a document has been properly executed so as to be binding;
  • that a party to a document had the necessary capacity to enter into the document
  • and did so of his own free will so as to be bound by it;
  • the accuracy of a fact;
  • the occurrence of an event.

Other Services

Notaries public also administer oaths, affirmations and statutory declarations for use abroad and are authorised by the Legal Services Act to do the same in England and Wales. The Legal Services Act also authorises notaries public to conduct regulated probate and conveyancing activities but notaries public who are also solicitors generally only do so through their solicitors practice. I do not conduct any such activities through my notarial practice.

Traditionally notaries public have also dealt with ship protests and protesting bills of exchange but this role is now much less important, although further information can be supplied on request.

As a general rule, beyond confirming that the person appearing before them understands the nature of the document or transaction and is willing to be bound, notaries do not advise on it; this is a matter for the foreign lawyer dealing with it. Although English notaries are sometimes asked to certify matters of English law, I do not advise on foreign law.