What is a notary? And what do they do?

When I tell people that I'm a notary, I'm frequently asked “what is that?” In fact, I'm asked that question so often, I usually find myself providing the answer even before I'm asked...

Put simply, a notary is someone who provides a very specific range of legal services, typically for international use.

I'm also asked “what do you do?”, and quite often when I'm actually completing the documents being notarised! To briefly explain and give a few examples, if you need your supporting documents for a work visa to travel out of the UK or if you need to make a 'free to marry' declaration, then a notary can provide you with the help that you need.

I love the variety that my job provides. No document nor client is the same, and everything needs to be assessed on its own merits.

Notarisations tell people in the receiving jurisdiction that the documents that they are presented with are true, accurate and can be relied upon. Some countries will require further stamps of authentication such as an apostille by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and/or legalisation from their embassy. Some even need to be stamped by an embassy once they reach the country they are to be used in. A notary can also authenticate a power of attorney for the sale or purchase of an overseas property. The types of documents notaries can assist with are vast. It can be for deeds, education certificates and birth certificates amongst other things.

What types of documents or tasks might require the services of a notary?

  • Powers of Attorney
  • Confirming identity or proof of life (usually pensions or other financial institutions)
  • Confirming education certificates and transcripts and qualifications
  • Travel consents for minors
  • True copies of identity documents and proof of address
  • Beneficial owner forms
  • Identifying a company and their corporate documents such as incorporation documents, powers of attorney, resolutions, certificates produced by the company, etc.
  • Witnessing signatures
  • Sale documents for property and/or goods
  • Warranty deeds, quit claim deeds
  • Certificates of Good Standing
  • Certified copies of documents (both overseas and England and Wales)
  • DBS/ACRO certificates if needed
  • Translations
  • Birth/death/marriage certificates from the GRO
  • Divorce papers
  • Inheritance/probate documents for use overseas
  • Declarations for marriage overseas
  • Medical certificates
  • Authorisation
  • Pension withdrawals from overseas companies
  • Name changes – deed poll
  • Authorisation for passport applications
  • Civil registration
  • Supporting documents for IVF treatments
  • Ship protests
  • Some visa support documents
  • Home Office pre-settled status certificates
  • Oaths, affidavits and declarations (both overseas and England and Wales)
  • Completing ID1, ID2, ID5 forms for the Land Registry (England and Wales)

Read: The Top 10 Reasons to use a Notary Public