What is a Notary Public?

In layman’s terms, the notary public is the holder of a public office and a member of a distinct branch of the legal profession. Most notaries are also solicitors. They must be fully insured and maintain fidelity cover for the protection of their clients and the public.

Notaries take an oath of allegiance to the Archbishop of Canterbury. They authenticate and certify signatures, especially on documents for use abroad. 

Notaries are authorised to conduct most general legal practice and may also exercise the powers of a Commissioner for Oaths. We are occasionally asked about the difference between a notary public and a Commissioner for Oaths. You can read more about the role of a Commissioner for Oaths on our glossary. Both of Birkett Long's notaries are qualified lawyers and partners of the firm.

What notarial services are available?

Many notaries work for commercial firms as well as for private individuals. The most common notarial services available are:

  • preparing and witnessing powers of attorney for use overseas
  • dealing with purchase or sale of land and property abroad
  • providing documents to deal with the administration of the estate of people who are abroad, or own property abroad
  • authenticating personal documents and information for immigration or emigration purposes, or to apply to marry or to work abroad
  • authenticating company and business documents and transactions

Birkett Long currently has two qualified notaries based in our Chelmsford and Colchester offices. Time is very often of the essence and so we endeavour to have someone available at one of those offices the same day if necessary. A notary is occasionally available at our Basildon office by prior arrangement.

How does a notary public authenticate or notarise a document?

A Notary Public is required to:

  • Check the identity of the signatory by the production of 'proper documents' (for example, current valid passport, Council tax or electricity bill to confirm their address);
  • Attest the signature of the individual involved; and
  • Ensure that the document is signed in accordance with English Law and also in accordance with the legal requirements of the country for which the document is required.

What evidence is needed?

A client is required to declare and prove their identity before the notary by producing “proper documents”; generally a current valid passport and something to confirm their address like a council tax bill or utility bill.

What costs are involved in notarising a document?

We will give you an estimate or a fixed price for the work when you book your appointment with us. 

Our minimum charge is £180 plus VAT, so £216 in total. This is based on our hourly rate of £300 + VAT. 

We encourage clients to complete our Client Information Form in advance of a meeting, in order to save time and therefore additional expense. 

Please note that there may be extra costs for fees payable to the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), Foreign Embassies or agents dealing with legalisation of documents, or courier or postal charges for sending notarised documents abroad.

How long does notarising a document take?

If the document is already prepared and in the correct form the notary should need to see you for 20 to 30 minutes. If they have to draw up the document or amend a draft, more time will be required. Providing drafts of all relevant documents prior to the meeting will help speed up the process.

Main notary services

  • Dealing with purchase or sale of land and property abroad
  • Authenticating company and business documents and transactions
  • Preparing and witnessing powers of attorney for use overseas
  • Providing documents to deal with the administration of the estate of people who are abroad, or owning property abroad
  • Authenticating personal documents and information for immigration or emigration purposes, to work abroad, or to apply to marry abroad

Contact a notary public

To make an appointment with one of our notaries, please contact notary@birkettlong.co.uk, or call:

Notary public in Colchester: 01206 217611

Notary public in Chelmsford: 01245 453863

  • Katie Ball
      • 0330 818 2941
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  • Linnea Griffiths
      • 0330 818 2946
      • View profile
  • Nicky Halls
      • 0330 818 3328
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Regulatory and complaint information

Our notarial practice is regulated through the Faculty Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury:

The Faculty Office, 1 The Sanctuary, Westminster, London SW1P 3JT
020 7222 5381

If you are dissatisfied about the service you have received, please do not hesitate to contact me. If we are unable to resolve the matter you may then complain to the Notaries Society of which Peter Allen and Ben Parmenter are members, who have a Complaints Procedure which is approved by the Faculty Office. This procedure is free to use and is designed to provide a quick resolution to any dispute. In that case please write (but do not enclose any original documents) with full details of your complaint to:

PO Box 7655 Milton Keynes MK11 9NR
01604 758908

If you have any difficulty in making a complaint in writing, please do not hesitate to call the Notaries Society/the Faculty Office for assistance.

Finally, even if you have your complaint considered under the Notaries Society Approved Complaints Procedure, you may at the end of that procedure, or after a period of eight weeks from the date you first notified me that you were dissatisfied, make your complaint to the Legal Ombudsman, if you are not happy with the result:

Legal Ombudsman,
PO Box 6167,
0300 555 0333

If you decide to make a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman you must refer your matter to the Legal Ombudsman within six months from the conclusion of the complaint process.

Birkett Long LLP maintains professional indemnity insurance to a limit of £20,000,000.