Thirsk Winton LLP

The Notarial Profession

Who are notaries?

  • The smallest and oldest branch of the legal profession in England and Wales
  • Highly-qualified lawyers, authorised to carry out a range of “normal” reserved legal activities such as conveyancing and probate
  • The only legal profession to have the right to offer notarial services

What distinguishes notaries amongst other lawyers?

  • They are public officers, with an over-riding duty to the transaction rather than the client
  • Recognition throughout the world for the purpose of adding authenticity to legal documents

Who act as notaries in England and Wales?

  • The majority of notaries in England and Wales are also qualified solicitors
  • They tend to practise as solicitors most of the time, only practising as a notary when carrying out notarial services
  • Other notaries practise full-time as notaries including the Scrivener Notaries of central London

How do notaries qualify?

  • Prior legal education is essential, usually satisfied by being a qualified solicitor or barrister
  • Then, a two-year part-time diploma course at University College London including study of Roman Law, Private International Law and Notarial Practice
  • The intending notary must petition the Faculty Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the profession’s regulatory body, for a Faculty to be granted
  • A practising certificate must be obtained and renewed yearly

When might I need to instruct a notary?

  • Buying a property in Spain, to have a power of attorney notarised
  • Opening a bank account in South Africa
  • Adopting a baby in China
  • Incorporating a company in the Caribbean

These are just a brief example of when a notary might be required. The ambit of a notary is wide and their services may be required in connection with a very diverse range of international transactions

What will the notary do?

  • Identify the person appearing before them
  • Confirm their capacity and authority to sign the document
  • Verify that they have the will to be bound by the document

The latter requires both the appearer and the notary to fully understand the contents of the document, and for that reason the document must be in English (but can also be in another language), or in a language in which both the appearer and the notary are fluent.