Chattertons Solicitors Banner Image
News and Events

What is a Notary Public?

View profile for David Guille
  • Posted
  • Author

A "Notary Public" or "Notary" is a specialist qualified lawyer. 

Notaries form the oldest of the three traditional branches of the legal profession in England and Wales, the other two being Solicitors and Barristers.  There are presently about 770 Notaries practising in England and Wales.

The origins of Notaries are traced back to Roman times and as part of their formal academic training Notaries must study Roman law.

Many Notaries are also Solicitors but that is not a specific requirement.


The main work of a Notary involves the preparation and authentication of documents for use abroad.  This is often known as "notarisation" and examples include:

  • Powers of Attorney for all purposes such as for the sale and purchase of property in foreign countries, international litigation and inheritance and succession.
  • Certification of passports and other types of identity documents.
  • Authentication of business and commercial contracts.
  • Certificates confirming the status of companies and the identity of their directors.
  • Certification of documentation, such as educational certificates for applications to work abroad.
  • Authentication of documents for those applying to marry abroad.
  • Travel consents for minors travelling abroad.
  • Sponsorship letters for those coming to visit or study in the UK.
  • Proof of life certificates for overseas pension providers.
  • Administering oaths.

Notaries are also authorised to conduct non-contentious legal practice such as conveyancing and probate. 

Any document or certificate prepared by a Notary is known as a "notarial act".  Rule 32.20 of the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 provides that a notarial act may be received in evidence without further proof. 

A Notary never simply certifies a document or witnesses a signature on a document.  The Notary authenticates the document confirming the identity and authority of the person who is signing or authorising it. 

Unlike a Solicitor or other qualified legal professional, a Notary's duty is not to the client (known as the "appearer") but to the notarial act or transaction and to all those who place a legitimate reliance on the notarial act.


Notaries in England and Wales are authorised and regulated by the Faculty Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury.  They must comply with strict practice rules, be fully insured and renew their practising certificates every year.


If you would like any further information or assistance in relation to Notarial Services please contact David Guille at our Boston office by telephone 01205 314107 or by email