What is a Notary Public?
A notary public (public notary or notary) is a public officer authorised through statutory powers to provide a range of national and international official services, primarily in relation to the witnessing and certification of legal documents. Notarial services include:
- attesting (proving) the authenticity of documents and certifying their proper execution so they may be used in Australia and overseas;
- certifying true copies of original documents for use in Australia and overseas;
- preparing and certifying powers of attorney, wills, deeds, contracts and other legal documents for use in Australia and overseas;
- administering oaths for the giving of evidence;
- taking and witnessing statutory declarations;
- preparing and notarising ship protests.
Unlike a Justice of the Peace, who may only certify and witness documents in Australia, a notary public is authorised to authenticate documents for overseas use.
Who may become a Notary Public?
Australian notaries are senior practising solicitors appointed through a State or Territory Supreme Court. Upon appointment, all notary publics are issued with an official ‘seal’ or ‘stamp’ which is registered along with his or her signature and stored in a database held by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The seal/stamp and signature are recognised in Australian and International Courts.
The seal or stamp is placed alongside or underneath a notary’s signature when carrying out his or her notarial duties.
When might I need the services of a Notary Public?
The services of a notary may be required for a range of commercial transactions such as overseas trade documents (letters of credit), contractual arrangements between foreign businesses (transfers of foreign assets, property and land) and matters concerning international trademarks, copyright or patent applications.
At a personal level, you may need to have documents notarised if they are to be used overseas or have issued from another country. Notary services may include the certification of passports, academic transcripts and testamurs, citizenship certificates and consent to travel documentation, probate documents where overseas assets form part of an estate, and overseas police checks.
Attending a Notary Public
When performing their duties, notaries must confirm the true identity of the person signing a document or swearing an oath. The notary must also make an informed decision that the signatory is not legally incapacitated (has sufficient mental capacity) and understands the nature and effect of the document being signed and/or attested. If the signatory is acting in an official capacity (such as a director of a registered company), the notary must be satisfied that the person has capacity to act in that manner.
When retaining the services of a notary public, signatories must ensure they have sufficient identification documents (for example, original birth certificate, driver’s licence, Medicare card, power of attorney) to verify their identity and, where relevant, authority to act.
When making an appointment to attend a public notary, you should obtain details of the identification and other documents required as well as any other information necessary for the notary to provide his or her services. Some documents that are not in English may need to be translated before they can be processed by a notary.