January 25, 2011

So What Exactly is a Notary Anyway?

Notaries have a long and distinguished history dating back to 1700 BC where they laid down the oldest evidence of recorded law, the Codex Hammurabi or The Code of Hammurabi. The Code, written by the Babylonian King Hammurabi, laid out 282 laws a translation of which can be found here.

In Ancient Rome, where they were called scribae (“scribe”), tabellius (“writer”), or notarius (“notary”), the role of the Notary was to provide legal assistance, authenticate documents and keep official archives. As the Roman Empire declined, the role of the Catholic Church increased in society, developing an administrative nature. Many of the clergy found it helpful to retain the service of a Notary and as a consequence, the Vatican became responsible for the appointment of Notaries.

Today Notaries are found practicing in many countries. There are two distinct types of Notaries; civil-law Notaries (also called Latin Notaries) , and common-law Notaries Public. Civil-law Notaries are lawyers who practice in an area of private law concerning transactions between individuals as opposed to law involving the State (for example criminal law). Their areas of practice include residential and commercial conveyancing and registration, contract drafting, business engagements, transactions, successions and estate planning andpowers of attorney.

In common-law jurisdictions a Notary Public is a practitioner trained to draft and execute legal documents. The role of the Notary varies widely from place to place and the use of the word “Public” points to the fact that Notaries are appointed to position by a governing authority to provide a service to the public. In most provinces in Canada and in much of the US, Notaries Public are restricted to administering oaths, witnessing signatures on affidavits and statutory declarations, providing acknowledgments, certifying true copies etc. Quebec does not have Notaries Public, only civil-law Notaries.

British Columbia is unique in Canada (outside of Quebec), indeed in North America, in the extensive area of law that we practice in. We are appointed by the Supreme Court of British Columbia and governed by the Notaries Act ,and the Society of Notaries Public of British Columbiaproviding non-contentious legal services such as:

  • Affidavits for All Documents required at a Public Registry within BC
  • Authorization of Minor Child Travel
  • Business Purchase/Sale
  • Certified True Copies of Documents
  • Commercial Leases & Assignment of Leases
  • Contracts and Agreements
  • Easements and Rights of Way
  • Estate Planning
  • Execution/Authentications of International Documents
  • Health Care Declarations
  • Insurance Loss Declarations
  • Letters of Invitation for Foreign Travel
  • Manufactured Home Transfers
  • Marine Bills of Sale and Mortgages
  • Marine Protestations
  • Mortgage Refinancing Documentation
  • Notarizations/Attestations of Signatures
  • Passport Application Documentation
  • Personal Property Security Agreements
  • Powers of Attorney
  • Proof of Identity for Travel Purposes
  • Purchaser’s Side of Foreclosures
  • Representation Agreements
  • Residential and Commercial Real Estate Transfers
  • Restrictive Covenants and Builder’s Liens
  • Statutory Declarations
  • Subdivisions and Statutory Building Schemes
  • Wills Preparation
  • Wills Searches
  • Zoning Applications
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