You can be excused for being confused if you contact us asking if we deal with certifying documents and we ask you which service you would like us to deliver. The reason for this is that there is really a choice of two things you might be asking us to do. In the first instance, you might be asking us to simply certify that a document is a true copy of an original document or to certify your ID for anti-money-laundering purposes. Alternatively, you may be asking is to notarise documents. For example, you may need to make some form of statutory declaration or have some international documents needing notarised or need to swear or affirm an Affidavit in relation to a divorce action.
It is important to differentiate these documents at the very beginning of our discussion with you to ensure the correct procedure is followed.
How we certify or notarise documents.
The normal process is for you to arrange an appointment to visit our office to meet with one of our solicitors. You need to bring along your ID documents because we need to check your ID in accordance with Law Society of Scotland regulations.
When your ID has been checked, we can move onto the next stage and deal with the documents that need to be certified or notarised.
We will check the documents you are asking us to certify to ensure it is certification you require and not notarisation. We will take photocopies of the originals and write on these photocopies certifying them as true copies of the originals. We will then sign and date them and add our firm’s details.
When documents have been certified as true copies, anyone who receives these can rely on them in the same way as they would rely on the originals.
Notarising documents involves a more formal process. Whilst the certification process involves writing on copies of the document, notarising documents involved administering an oath or affirmation and then countersigning the original documents.
We will ask you if you would like to swear or affirm the content of the document. Once you’ve made your choice, we will administer the oath or affirmation. This is a very formal process. Once this has been done, we will then ask you to sign the documents and we will then countersign them and apply a Notarial Seal. We will add our firm’s details and then retain copies of the completed documents and hand you the originals.
The original documents have lawful foundation and can be relied upon by others.
Can you still certify or notarise documents if I cannot visit your office?
Our preference is always that if you can visit our office, you should visit our office. However, we appreciate that this is not always possible. Perhaps one good thing that came out of the Covid-19 lockdowns was the introduction of remote methods of certifying or notarising documents.
The Scottish Government, following consultation with the Law Society of Scotland introduced legislation to allow for remote certification and notarisation of documents in the Coronavirus (Scotland) (No 2) Act 2020. The basis on which documents can be certified or notarised remotely is contained in Schedule 4. Part 7 and these provisions have survived the pandemic and are now available for use by all solicitors in those circumstances where it is not possible for a client to visit our office.
A formal procedure has been laid down which all solicitors must follow and the steps closely mirror the steps we take when a client visits our office.
The remote certification or notarisation must take place in a video meeting. In advance of the meeting, we must receive your ID documents. We will then lead you through the ID verification process as laid down by the Law Society of Scotland.
We will then deal with the documents which have to be certified or notarised. Once again, we will need advance copies of these. We cannot provide this service if either your ID documents or the documents you need certified or notarised have not been provided to us in advance.
The certification process is straight forward. We will discuss the documents with you, take copies of them and then certify them as true copies, much in the same way as in a face-to-face meeting.
Remote notarising of documents
However, the notarial process is different. We will ask you to read through your copy of the document you have sent to us and which you wish us to notarise. This is to ensure that the copy you have is the same as the one we have. When you have done that, we will administer the oath or affirmation and ask you to sign the document. We must see you actually sign the document you have read to us. You must then post the document to us or scan and email it to us.
When the signed document arrives, we will compare it to the copy we have and if it compares favourably, we will then countersign and apply the Notarial Seal to the document. We will then send the notarised document back to you.
If you need to have documents certified or notarised, please get in touch with us. Our preference is that you visit our office to enable us to certify or notarise your documents. However, if this is not possible, please let us know and we can make arrangements to deal with this over a video link.