Making the right choice: What to look for in a good notary public

There are plenty of notary publics (or notaries) here in the UK. But how do you choose? And what makes a good one?

When deciding how to start this article, my first thought was fairly self-serving, and I was going to use just one word: “me!” However, it probably wouldn’t have the comedic tone I was looking for nor be of any use to anyone actually taking the time to read this article. The title feels like one of those questions on a job application form, which you don’t quite know how to answer without feeling full of self-importance or just plain sarcastic.

I suppose the things you need to look for in your notary can be as wide or as narrow as you deem necessary. In practical terms, you will most likely need one that is local to you. You are probably going to need to visit them to be identified, have original documents copied and/or verified and have your signature witnessed. As mentioned in other articles within this knowledgebase, you need to be physically present for many types of documents such as oaths, declarations and affidavits. If you are looking to have your identity documents copies, you will need to present them yourself so that your notary can check the photograph looks like you and state that on the copy or form.

A good notary will want to know about the transaction taking place. This is to ensure that you know what is happening and for us to ensure that there is no duress or the like that you are under. We need to assess your capacity. I am clear about this from the outset. Most of the time, a conversation will easily show me all I need to know, but sometimes further conversations, appointments and medical information is needed to look at the whole picture. A good notary will be understanding of the various scenarios and will question the transaction and actions of those in front of them, those that have provided the information and those relying on the documents.

I will always check to see if you have read a document and that you understand it, and its consequences. This is true even if the document is written in a language I cannot read. I will ask for translations to help me do this, even when you are fluent in the written language. There are times a notary will see a client who does speak a lot of English, and then an independent translator will need to be present.

All the notaries that I know are friendly and professional, a good notary will know the balance between getting things done correctly and being able to listen to their client’s needs and ensure they are getting the best service they can. They will also be able to give you honest advice about what you do or don’t need. I will question whether something needs to be notarised first if it can have an apostille attached directly, or whether a solicitor would be able to assist you better. Sometimes things need to be referred to the source and questions asked of the draftsperson or lawyer in the receiving jurisdiction. A good notary won’t be afraid to ask the questions they need to. Sometimes a notary will decline work, and this will be for a good reason. This could be because the document has been translated incorrectly, the signor does not have the capacity or simply because notarisation is not needed. A notary will also respond to your questions, and if you don’t understand the answer, then please ask them to clarify or follow up with further questions if you have them.

I always strive to be a ‘good notary’ and deliver all that a client needs and expects as do so many in our wonderful profession. If you have any queries of your own, please do not hesitate to get in touch.