What is the difference between a Notary Public and a Solicitor Empowered to Commission Oaths?

18th September 2014

It is often confusing as to whether you need a Notary Public or Commissioner for Oaths particularly when you need some documents certified.

It all depends upon the nature and purpose of the documents you need certified and the country in which the documents are required.

A Commissioner for Oaths is a person commissioned by the Lord Chancellor to administer oath or take any affidavit for the purposes of any court matter in England. All solicitors that hold a valid practising certificate may also perform this function providing oath or affidavit to be used in a court in England.

It is also worth bearing in mind that a Commissioner for Oaths or a solicitor cannot administer any oath or affidavit to be used in a court in England if they are acting for any of the parties in the matter for which the documents are required.

On the other hand a Notary Public is a qualified lawyer who holds an internationally recognised public office and their specialism lies in the preparation, authentication and certification of documents for use anywhere in the world and is appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury following a stringent application process involving an intense 2 year training course, which can only be taken by those already holding sufficient qualifications in a variety of legal practise areas.

The primary duties of a Notary Public are to verify the identity of an individual to whom the documents relate, to ensure the individual has read and understood any documents they are signing and that the individual has an understanding of the transaction to which the documents are facilitating.

The reason a Notary Public is trusted to facilitate transactions anywhere in the world is because, while a solicitors primary duty is to his/her client, a Notary Public’s primary concern is to the transaction he/she is facilitating in another jurisdiction and the authenticity of the documents involved.

A Notary public is often required when dealing with assets outside of England, such as selling shares that are administered by an overseas company or perhaps closing an offshore bank account or perhaps an overseas property transaction.

While it may be a bit of a pain to visit a Notary Public to get documents authenticated, it eliminates the need for the individual to travel abroad to deal with their affairs.

So the long and short of it is……….if you need some documents authenticated where the transaction and the assets are all here in England or Wales then a solicitor empowered to Commission Oaths will be fine, but if any part of the transaction involves an overseas element then you should probably be using a Notary Public.