The Notary Public – the third arm of the legal profession

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In New Zealand, Notaries are lawyers appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury to officially witness signatures on legal documents, sworn statements such as affidavits, administer oaths and certify the authenticity of legal documents for use overseas. Documents certified by Notaries are accepted in many parts of the world.

The Notary’s responsibility is to the transaction itself, rather than to the client.

Whether or not the services of a Notary are required in New Zealand will be determined by the requirements of the overseas country involved.  Generally a document executed or sworn before a Notary will be recognised by Commonwealth countries without further proof. They are accepted in many other countries as well.

Some other countries may require the authorisation of the Notary to be authenticated by the authentication unit of the Department of Internal Affairs in New Zealand (email: )

There is a small fee payable for the services of a notary and you will need to provide photographic identification (a current passport or drivers licence is usually sufficient) as part of the process.

There are a handful of notaries in Northland.  WRMK Limited has one Notary (Steve Wong) who is available by appointment.

History of the Notary Public

Since 1533 Notaries in England, and more recently in New Zealand, have been appointed by the Master of the Faculties, a judicial officer of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The act of certifying or authenticating is called the “Notarial Act” which may be in a private or public form.  Private notarial acts are when the notary certifies or attests a private document.  The public form, which is less common, are those bills of exchange, ship protests, notarial certificates, affidavits, statutory declarations or powers of attorney, which are written by the notary himself.

By virtue of his or her office the notary’s signature and seal is recognised as being evidence of a responsible officer in most countries of the world.

Most New Zealand notaries have lodged specimens of their signatures and seals with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and with the Principal Foreign Missions, so that if further consular verification of any document is required in that country the details are already on record.

Our thanks to Steve Wong for writing this article