In Gibraltar, notaries are appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury of England. They qualify in the same way as English and Welsh notaries and have the same functions and powers as they do.
The authority of a notary to practise in Gibraltar is derived from his registration with the Registrar of the Supreme Court of Gibraltar under the Commissioner for Oaths and Public Notaries Act.
A notary (also known as a notary public) is defined by what he is and what he does. He is a qualified lawyer and a member of the third and oldest branch of the legal profession in the United Kingdom (the other two branches being barristers and solicitors). His main task is to certify and authenticate documents and transactions so that they can be effective in countries outside Gibraltar; both in common law and civil law jurisdictions.
A notary can also be described as a public officer constituted by law to serve the public in non-contentious matters. Other main functions of a notary are to administer oaths and affirmations, take affidavits and statutory declarations, take acknowledgements of deeds and other conveyances, witness and attest the execution of documents, draw up and attest powers of attorney, protest notes and bills of exchange, prepare maritime protests in cases of damage, provide notarially certified copies, and perform certain other official acts depending on the requirements of the receiving jurisdiction.
The origin of notaries can be traced back to the times of the occupation of Britain by the Romans. Until 1533 notaries were appointed on papal authority by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Following the break from Rome, appointments continued to be made by the Archbishop of Canterbury, but on the authority of the Crown.
The Archbishop's jurisdiction was, and is, exercised through one of the oldest of the English courts, the Court of Faculties, now physically located at the Precinct adjoining Westminster Abbey in London. The court is presided over by the Master of the Faculties who is the most senior ecclesiastical judge and commonly also a judge of the English Supreme Court. Since 1801 the appointment and regulation of notaries has been underpinned by Statutes enacted by the United Kingdom Parliament.
Nowadays, all notaries are admitted to the roll of notaries by the Faculty Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Faculty Office is presided over by the Master of the Faculties and its day to day administration is the responsibility of the Registrar.
In order to qualify as a Notary, applicants must hold a university degree, or be qualified as solicitors or barristers. Thereafter all applicants must obtain a Diploma in Notarial Practice after following a course of study set by an English University. Once the Diploma is obtained, an applicant may petition the Court of Faculties for a “Faculty”, a formal warrant under the seal of the Archbishop of Canterbury confirming his appointment, powers and authority to practise as a notary.
A whole series of documents will not be accepted by a foreign jurisdiction unless they have been executed before a notary or have been authenticated with a notarial certificate.
Gibraltar is a common law jurisdiction and, as notaries, we act as a bridge between civil law jurisdictions (such as Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, all of South and Central America and most Eastern European countries) and Gibraltar. This ensures that documents executed in Gibraltar will be accepted in the receiving jurisdiction.
We provide a full range of notarial services both to private individuals, trust and company managers, other law firms and to commercial firms engaged in international trade. Our services include:
• preparing and witnessing powers of attorney and other documents for use abroad;
• preparing public-form notarial acts which are usually required if a document is to take effect in a civil law jurisdiction;
• drawing up notarially attested translations into and from Spanish;
• the preparation of notarial acts in Spanish;
• authenticating company and business documents and transactions;
• dealing with the purchase or sale of land and property abroad;
• the completion of documentation for the registration of a company or a branch abroad;
• taking and administering oaths, affirmations and declarations;
• drawing up ship protests in maritime matters;
• providing documents to deal with the administration of the estates and related inheritance matters of people who are abroad;
• authenticating personal documents and information for private individuals such as passports, qualification certificates, marriage certificates, decrees of divorce, birth and death certificates;
• authenticating and certifying signatures and documents for use abroad;
• attesting the authenticity of deeds and documents; and
• authenticating all of our notarial certificates and documents with the Apostille or otherwise obtaining the required form of legalisation.
We are bilingual in English and Spanish and we have a working knowledge of some aspects of Spanish law. We are thus able to issue notarial acts in Spanish in a form which officials in Spain, and in other Spanish-speaking countries, are accustomed to. This ensures that the documents we prepare will be easily and readily accepted without our clients needing to incur the extra costs of translating their documents or of incurring the risk that they will not be accepted.
We also have a good working knowledge of French and can draw up notarial acts in this language. If we are provided with appropriate text by Portuguese or Italian lawyers and, in some cases, a translation of the same into English or Spanish, we may also be able to issue notarial acts in Portuguese and Italian.
Legalisation is the process by which the signature and seal of the notary are authenticated by the Gibraltar Government, the United Kingdom Foreign Office and/or the Embassy or Consulate of the country in which the document is to be used. This is necessary as otherwise the clients’ documents will not be accepted in the country in which they are intended to have effect.
Some countries do not require documents to be legalised and we will be able to advise whether or not this is needed but sometimes advice from foreign lawyers may be required.
Most countries only require one certificate from the Gibraltar Government called an Apostille. During business hours, this can be obtained by us in 24 hours and, if the matter is urgent, within the hour.
Some countries will require an Apostille plus a further certificate from their own Embassy, Consulate or High Commission. In such a case, we would need to send the document to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London and then to the Embassy, Consulate or High Commission of the country in question. This will take longer and will be more costly and further information will be given upon request.