FAQ's

1. What is a Notary?

In England and Wales, a notary is a type of lawyer who specialises in preparing and certifying documents for use in other jurisdictions.

2. When might I need a notary?

Companies may need to have documents notarised if, for example, they are opening a branch office or a bank account or appointing a representative in another country, buying or selling a ship or registered property, or submitting proof of residence for tax purposes. Examples of when a private individual may need a notary are if they are buying or selling property abroad, if they have inherited property abroad, if they wish to appoint someone to administer their affairs in another country or simply if they wish to give their child permission to travel abroad.

3. What is the difference between a notary and a solicitor?

Solicitors form by far the largest part of the legal profession in England and Wales, providing advice and representation to their clients in the vast majority of fields of law whether civil or criminal, contentious or non-contentious, national or international. Notaries, on the other hand, form a small, highly specialised branch of the legal profession, whose main area of specialisation is the preparation and certification of documents so that they may be effective abroad. A solicitor is not a proper person to certify documents which are intended to be used outside England and Wales – this is the role of a notary. One important difference between a notary and a solicitor is that whereas a solicitor's primary duty is to his client, the notary's primary duty is to the world at large and to anyone who places reliance on his notarial act. This means that a notary must always be independent and impartial. A notary’s acts can be relied upon as an accurate statement of the facts the world over.

4. What is a Scrivener notary?

Scrivener notaries are a more highly qualified branch of the notarial profession in England and Wales and are fluent in two languages besides English to enable them to deal with documents in foreign languages. More information on Scrivener notaries can be found here.

5. How does the role of an English notary differ from that of a notary overseas?

Although it is part of every notary’s role to authenticate documents, there are very large differences between our work and that of (a) Continental / civil law notaries and (b) US notaries:

(a) Notaries are an integral part of the legal system in Civil Law jurisdictions such as most of continental Europe and South America. In those jurisdictions, a notary is required to prepare and authenticate almost all legal acts and a notary in such countries would deal primarily with documents for use within his own country.

(b) In the US, by contrast, being a notary is not a profession, and US notaries are not usually required to have any legal qualifications. They are easily located and usually certify documents for routine matters by simply signing a pre-printed form. In reflection of the fact that it is usually only a small additional source of income for the notary and there are very few rules to comply with, fees are very low.

Clients sometimes ask if ‘US notaries’ are available in the UK: apart from their equivalents at the US Consulate, who will notarise documents for US citizens only, the answer is ‘no’, but a UK notary is the appropriate person to certify documents for use in the US.



6. What does Notarial Certification mean?

The purpose of notarial certification is to authenticate legal documents. This is normally required to enable particular documents to be accepted abroad by courts, registries or other notaries.

The form of certification varies substantially according to the document and the country in which it is to be used. Generally, the notary is certifying the genuineness of the signature(s) on the document, the identity and capacity of the person signing and, if applicable, their authority to represent the company or entity they are signing for. We may also certify that the document is correctly executed in accordance with English law. We can also certify true copies of original documents and the truth and accuracy of translations. In all cases, a notarised document bears the notary’s signature and official seal.

7. Affidavits, statutory declarations and other oaths and declarations – should I see a notary for these?

Yes. Affidavits, statutory declarations and oaths of all types for use outside England and Wales should be attested by a notary. We are also authorised to attest affidavits, statutory declarations and oaths where the documents will be used within England and Wales in our capacity as commissioners for oaths. Affidavits and statutory declarations must always be sworn or declared in front of the notary.

8. Do I need to sign in the presence of the notary?

In general, the answer to this question is yes. The first time we notarise a client’s signature on a document, it is preferable for us to meet the signatory in person, identify them by means of their identity documents and witness their signature.

It is particularly necessary that the document is executed in the presence of the notary where this is required either by English law or by the applicable foreign law for the formal validity of the document, such as for affidavits or statutory declarations or for certain public form powers of attorney. It is normally clear on the face of the document when the notary must be present, such as by the inclusion of the words “Before me”.

When the notary does not need to state expressly that the document has been signed before him/her and already has a record of the signature on file, the documents may be sent round to our office and the notary may certify the authenticity of a signature without witnessing it.

9. Do I need an appointment?

Yes, if you need to see a notary. To make an appointment, telephone, fax or e-mail our office and the person answering will be able to fix a suitable time for you to attend at our offices or for a notary to attend at your offices, as you prefer.

10. Our Offices or Yours?

Appointments may be made for meetings at our offices or elsewhere and we are pleased to attend at the offices of our clients or those of third parties if this is more convenient. It should be noted, however, that if the notary comes to your offices to witness the documents being signed, it is invariably necessary for us to take them back to our offices to complete the certification and recordation before returning them to our clients or forwarding them and any copies as per the client’s request.

11. What documentation do I need to produce to the notary?

If you are signing a document and we do not have details of you and your signature in our records, we will need to see proof of your personal identity. If you are signing a document on behalf of a company or organisation, we will also need to see evidence of both your capacity to sign on behalf of the company or organisation (such as a power of attorney, board resolution or signature book) and of the organisation's existence, unless we already hold this evidence in our files.

12. What types of personal identity documents are acceptable?

Following the implementation of the Money Laundering Regulations 2003 and in accordance with the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, we are obliged to keep sufficient evidence on our files of the identity and the address of all our clients before we undertake any work.

From private individual clients of all nationalities, we therefore require two pieces of identification - one personal identification document from the list below and one proof of residence at the time of the appointment for each person whose signature we are certifying and for the person who is acting as our client for billing purposes:

• passport
• driving licence (with photocard)
• national identity card
• Lloyd's Pass
• an armed forces pass (with photo and signature)
• firearms licence (with photo and signature)
• other government issue ID (with photo and signature).

Proof of residence can be one of the following original documents:

• Bank statement or letter (not credit card statement or bill) dated within the last 3 months
• Utility bill dated within the last 3 months (not mobile phone bill, but can include council tax bill or statement if party is addressee and property being taxed is at the same address)
• Letter of confirmation from a lawyer, accountant, banker or doctor.

When we are acting for a corporate client, we need evidence of the due incorporation of the company or entity. This can be one of the following documents:

• Recent extract from the company register (which Saville & Co. can obtain directly for UK and many foreign registers)
• Goodstanding certificate dated within the last 3 months
• Certificate of incorporation (if recently incorporated)
• Latest report and audited accounts
• Up to date certified copy of partnership agreement
• Letter of identification from professional firm, bank or from a member of the prospective client who is already known to Saville & Co.
• Evidence of being regulated by a regulatory body such as the Law Society or FSA.

Please note that in addition to the evidence of the due incorporation of the company, each individual signatory will need to produce one of the personal identification documents mentioned above.

In all cases, we will need to take copies of the documents for our files. We are of course bound by standard confidentiality rules and these copies will not be made available to anyone else. However, we are obliged by our professional rules to keep them. We are also registered as a data controller under the Data Protection Act 1998.

If these documents have already been produced to Saville & Co., it will not be necessary to produce them again unless they have expired. This is the case even if you are seeing a different notary from Saville & Co.

13. What is Legalisation?

Frequently, documents that have been notarially certified must be further legalised to be fully accepted in the jurisdiction where they will be used. Legalisation is a form of governmental authentication of the notary’s (or other public officer’s) signature, seal and capacity.
Very broadly, destination countries can be divided into three groups:

1. those for which no further legalisation of notarised documents is required – typically common-law or Commonwealth jurisdictions;
2. those that are members of a convention [the Hague Convention abolishing the requirement of legalisation for foreign public documents, 1961], for which a type of legalisation known as the apostille should be universally accepted;
3. other countries, for which consular legalisation is needed, i.e. authentication by the Consulate of the destination country – usually in addition to the apostille.

As this is a complicated area, for more specific guidance please use this page to select the country in question and find out what legalisation is required and approximately how long it should take.

14. What is an apostille?

It is a form of legalisation, issued in the UK by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office [FCO]. The apostille is a certificate which is attached to a public document – normally, in this context, our notarial certificates – and verifies the signature and seal of the officer who issued it – here, the notary, so that the notarised document can take effect in countries which have ratified the Hague Convention abolishing the requirement of legalisation for foreign public documents of 1961 (see a list of those countries here).

The FCO has two levels of service:- the premium (while you wait) service for business customers only at £75 per document, which can be obtained by us through their London office and the standard service at £30 per document, which is obtained through the FCO’s office in Milton Keynes, either by post or in person. Our messengers attend the office in London several times a day for both our commercial and private clients, while they normally attend the office in Milton Keynes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Thus the premium service can be obtained the same day or the following day, while the standard service takes 3 - 5 working days.

Apostilles can also be attached directly to some public documents such as birth certificates, HMRC certificates or Companies House certificates; we can also arrange this on our clients’ behalf.

15. How long does all this take?

For the vast majority of straightforward matters and if legalisation is not required, we aim to complete our notarial certificate either during an appointment in our office or, if you are not attending, to complete it and return the document(s) within the same day. However there are times when the matters are more complicated or we need to be provided with supporting documents; in such cases we will aim to let you know at the outset how long the matter should take. Documents that need to be legalised will take longer – see details here – although we also aim to have documents notarised and apostilled on the same day if we receive them early enough.

16. What are your fees?

In England and Wales, notarial fees are set by each notarial firm and not according either to a scale set by the Government as is the case with many European countries, or in accordance with a general agreement made between all notaries. Indeed, any such general agreement would infringe the provisions of English law relating to price fixing.

Our fees range from £60 for the attestation of a simple document in English, executed by an individual, to several thousand pounds for large and complex corporate transactions. VAT is charged where appropriate.

Our fees are calculated on the basis of the nature and number of documents and the time involved, together with a basic instruction fee and elements in respect of legalisation, translation, foreign languages, drafting, correspondence and any other factors where these apply. We do not issue a sample price list as this could be very misleading: there are many different elements taken into consideration. However, we are very happy to give an estimate of our fees and the costs involved in advance of undertaking any work.

We expect private clients to settle our fees on completion of the work and corporate clients within 30 days of billing, unless there is agreement to the contrary.