James Mountford’s Role as a Notary at Gaby Hardwicke Solicitors

James Mountford, a Senior Associate Solicitor, who specialises in wills and probate and is also a Notary Public, discusses his role as a notary at Gaby Hardwicke Solicitors.

The role of a solicitor or barrister is well known to the general public but the role of a notary public is a mystery to many.

This is despite us notaries being the oldest branch of the legal profession.

The first time you may come across a notary is when carrying out a transaction overseas such as buying or selling property or registering your company with the relevant authorities. The foreign authorities or lawyers will want to ensure the legal documentation is signed by the correct parties. If it is not possible or convenient to travel abroad to sign the documents who can be relied upon to make sure the true parties sign? That responsibility is often delegated to a notary public.

Our job is to check the identity, understanding and approval of the signatories to the documents. It is not to advise on foreign law.

Very often we then need to “legalise” the documents via the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO). The credentials of the notary public are verified by the FCO, who hold copies of the notary’s signatory and notary seal, by the attachment of an “apostille” to the document. Essentially this is a certificate confirming the notary is legit.

Some countries require a further step – legalisation by their own embassy. A notary can deal with this as well.

The most common jobs for a notary include:

  1. Witnessing powers of attorney in connection with the sale and purchase of property overseas.
  2. Certifying identification documents.Signing “life certificates” for those who receive foreign pensions.
  3. Authenticate educational qualifications.
  4. Administering oaths and affidavits.

It is a very interesting and varied job to say the least. My notary “scratch map” now includes most of Europe, North America, parts of Africa and Asia.

We are regulated by the Court of Faculties of the Archbishop of Canterbury, which intrigues some people. When a notary qualifies you obtain a notary “faculty”, signed by the Archbishop. See below my own faculty.

We all have our own unique seal. See below my own seal, inspired by my passion for running.

Despite these whimsies we are subject to strict regulation and must renew our practicing certificate annually by proving we have insurance and that we have completed sufficient hours of Continuing Professional Education.








If you need the assistance of a notary please do not hesitate to contact me. 

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