There are three branches to the legal profession. There are solicitors, barristers and Notaries public. Notaries are senior lawyers with years of experience and most notaries are solicitors.
When might you need the services of a notary public? It is usually when documents are required for use abroad.
For example, you may need to give someone authority to act on your behalf in a foreign transaction, whether that is buying or selling a property, opening, or closing a bank account, an inheritance, or commercial dealings. You may do so by signing a Power of Attorney in the presence of a notary. This enables your trusted agent to step into your shoes so as to act on your behalf.
Powers of Attorney are very useful instruments, but the are also very dangerous. That is why it is important that the notary satisfies him or herself the person granting it knows exactly what it is they are doing.
You may wish to have a sworn Statutory Declaration notarised or your foreign lawyer may be looking for a Certificate of Law to establish what the legislation is on some area of law is in Ireland.
Similarly, a limited company may wish to set up a subsidiary or open a bank account abroad. If so, the company will have to have their company records notarised.
Notaries must also satisfy themselves that those appearing before them fully understand the content of the documents being presented and that they fully trust the person or persons to whom they are being entrusted.
For corporate documents, the notary must have solid proof the person signing on behalf of the company has the authority to sign such documents.
If a document is in a foreign language, the notary will have to be satisfied that the appearer either understands that language or that the contents of the document have been translated by someone whom they trust.
In all the above examples what happens is that the notary is proving that the persons who sign the presented documents are who they say they are. The appearer must show that they understand the content of those documents.
For notaries to verify this, they will look for proof of identity from those appearing before them. This is usually by the production of a current passport and the production of a recent utility bill or bank statement as proof of residential address.
Once a document has been notarised, some countries request that an Apostille from the Department of Foreign Affairs is obtained. This is a stamp or certificate that is placed on the document to confirm that the notary’s signature and seal are authenticate and as a result, the notarised document will be accepted abroad without question. The notarised document becomes a public document.
It should be noted that if a document in a foreign language requires to have an Apostille, it must have bound to it an English version.
A notarsed document presented for an Apostille must have an Irish connection, either an Irish address or an Irish passport number.
The notary is an officer of the court and as such has a high level of responsibility.
Under Data Protection and Money Laundering legislation the notary is obliged to retain a copy of all documents that are being notarised along with the appearer’s personal details. These will be retained for a period of five years. However, they will not be produced to a third party by your notary unless required by law to do so.
The notary is there to help you and to look out for your best interests.