10 things to know about Public Notaries
- The terms Notary Public, Public Notary and Notary mean the same thing and can be used interchangeably in Australia.
- In New South Wales, a Notary is an experienced lawyer who has:
- undertaken additional studies to become a Notary; and
- been approved by the Supreme Court to act as a Notary.
- A Notary has statutory powers to witness documents, administer oaths, and perform other functions, usually, in respect of international documents for use outside Australia.
- A Notary is required to verify the identity of the signatory. Such verification is usually done through government issued identity documents such as a Driver’s Licence and Passport. If a company is signing a document (or a person is signing on behalf of a company), the Notary must ascertain that the signatory is acting in an official representative capacity e.g. a secretary or director. A Notary will usually undertake a search of ASIC records to verify the company’s office holders.
- When signing a document, a Notary also affixes their official seal to the document. This is usually an embossed imprint made onto a red sticker placed on the document. Some people think it looks like a red wax seal used in centuries past.
- Notaries register their seals and signatures with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). When issuing Apostilles or Authentications, DFAT certifies that the Notary’s signature and seal is genuine.
- In the United States, Notaries perform a similar role to a Justice of the Peace (JP) in Australia. However, US Notaries are not qualified to witness documents for use in foreign countries as are Australian Notaries. Commonly, where a document is to be signed in Australia but used in the United States, an Australian Notary (and not a JP) must witness the signature being signed on the document.
- A Notary should decline to act as a witness where:
- the identity of the signatory cannot be sufficiently confirmed;
- it appears the signatory suffers some kind of legal incapacity such as a mental disability or illness that is of such a severity that it would prevent the person from having the authority to signing the document in their own right (for instance, severe dementia);
- the signatory is unlikely to understand the nature and effect of the document they are signing; and
- the Notary is suspicious the document being signed may constitute a fraud or may otherwise be used to break the law.
- When providing notary services, the Notary is not providing you with legal advice or legal services including in relation to the documents or the matters they relate to. You should liaise with your overseas lawyers and advisors as to the adequacy, effect and risks of these document and any other questions you may have.
- In NSW Notaries usually charge in accordance with the Notaries Recommended Scale of Fees set pursuant to section 12 of the PUBLIC NOTARIES ACT 1997 see https://notarynsw.org.au/recommended-fees/
One of our partners, Rod Simpson, is a Notary. Based in Cronulla, in the Sutherland Shire, he has helped many people across Sydney notarise their documents. Rod can be contacted on [email protected] If you would like a quote, please email Rod a copy of the documents you require to be notarised. Please note that if the document is not in English a Naati certified translation (https://www.naati.com.au/) would be required.