Our columnist Charles B Neal, Notary Public and Solicitor at Bell & Buxton, talks us through the ‘rare beast’ that is a Notary Public

What is a Notary Public For?

The Notary Public is quite a rare beast.  There are only about 750 of them in England. Notaries are distinct from both solicitors and barristers.  They trace their origin back to the scribes in the Roman Empire who would record the activities and decisions of the tribunes and magistrates.

The notaries became the people who would maintain the record of official legal acts of the citizenry.  They are often, in civil law countries, the people who deal with the buying and selling of land keeping the records of ownership and recording the fact and distribution of estates.  They would also record the wishes of a person in the form of only notarial Will.  In many countries, notaries are required to record commercial contracts.

Although notaries were not a feature of the Common Law in England, they have existed here for centuries often working through the church.  At the time of Henry VIII’s break with the Papacy, there were several papal notaries operating in England. So the power to grant notarial status in England transferred to the Archbishop of Canterbury who today authorises and regulates notaries in England and Wales and in some territories (Gibraltar) and commonwealth states (Queensland in Australia, New Zealand).

The work of a Notary in England is varied. Leaving aside technical tasks relating to ship protests (not much call for that in Sheffield) and noting or protesting Bills of Exchange (a method of commercial finances which is no longer very common) a notary may well deal with property matters, probate and the administration of estates.

Otherwise most of the notary’s tasks relate to persons or institutions with an international or inter-jurisdictional matter. A Notary will provide proof of identity for use abroad, authenticate educational certificates for people studying or working abroad and authenticate powers of attorney by individuals and companies as well as witnesses or authenticating various acts by a company or company directors

A Notary is not simply certifying a document or witnessing a signature, they are authenticating it, confirming the identity and authority of the person who is signing or authorising the act.

The document once ‘notarised’ is matter of public record.  A notarial act is regarded as proof without the need for further evidence (Civil Procedure Rules 1998 Rule 32.20).

There are not many Notaries in the Sheffield region but there is one right in the city centre! And I can provide notarial services for individuals and businesses.

Charles B Neal

Notary Public, Head of Wills, Trusts and Probate and Solicitor at Bell & Buxton