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While processing a legal document, we often hear that the document needs to be stamped by a Notary Public for authenticity. But we often do not understand what or who is a Notary Public and why our documents need to be notarized. In this article, I am attempting to explain who is a Notary Public and why sometimes we need our legal documents to be notarized.
1. Who is a Notary Public?
A Notary Public is a public official who is recognised under the Australian laws and the laws of a foreign country. A Notary Public has the exclusive authority to authenticate documents to be used in that foreign country. The Notary Public has an official stamp, seal and signature that is unique to each Notary Public.
To be a Notary Public someone needs to comply with the following requirements:
have been a lawyer fo at least five continuous years;
currently hold an Australian practising certificate; and
complete the Notarial Practice Course.
2. What is notarization?
Notarisation means any act that must be performed by a Notary Public. Notarisation may include the following actions performed by a Notary Public:
administering oaths and affirmations,
taking affidavits and statutory declarations,
witnessing and authenticating the execution of certain classes of documents like Wills, Deeds, Power of Attorney etc,
taking acknowledgments of Deeds,
preparing protest notes and bills of exchanges, and
preparing marine protests in cases of damage.
3. What kind of documents needs to be notarized?
Generally, legal documents like powers of attorney, wills, deeds and contracts need to be notarized before they can be enforced overseas. A Notary Public provides the following services relating to documents that can be used in a foreign country:
Certification of copies legal documents like passports, educational qualifications, birth, death and marriage certificates;
Notarisation of company documents which may include minutes, resolutions, constitutions, shareholder agreements and certificates;
Notarisation of trademark documents;
Taking affidavits, statutory declarations, powers of attorneys, contracts/deeds, wills and security documents for use in overseas court cases;
Notarisation of any document for use by an overseas government department or institution.
This Official stamp, seal and signature of the notary public are recorded on a database held at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). DFAT is an Australian government department with authority to issue Apostille / Authentication Certificates. The seal and the signature of the Notary on Australian documents verify that the documents are genuine.
4. What is the difference between a Justice of Peace and a Notary Public?
A Justice of the Peace (JP) and a Notary Public play a similar role in our community and legal system. They both certify people’s identities on documents and authenticate true copies of original documents. However, there are some key differences between the two titles.
The main difference between a JP and a Notary Public is that a JP can only assist in Australia. A Notary Public, on the other hand, is recognised in both Australia and overseas. A Notary Public is essentially an international JP.
5. Are there different levels of notary service?
A Notary Public can assist you with a very wide range of documents. Therefore, the processes can be varied for authenticating different type of documents. Following are the examples of different levels of notary service:
one-step process, where they notarize a document before you send it overseas;
two-step process, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) authenticates a document which has been notarized before it is sent overseas; and
three-step process, a document is notarized, then authenticated by the DFAT and finally sent to the relevant consulate or embassy for final certification.
To notarize a document, a Notary Public will affix his/her official seal or inked stamp next to his/her signatures. While using the services of a notary public, please be sure to provide sufficient proof of identification. It will enable the notary public to approve of the legal document as required. Despite notarising documents, you should always confirm the requirements of each document. It will ensure that you are executing it correctly. The involvement of a notary public might be relaxed if the parties to the legal document are part of the Hague Convention, which works at instilling comity between countries.