The Team

Certifying documents
Certifying documents

Solicitors have always dealt with document certification, however, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, document certification seemed to come to the fore. Perhaps, this was because the legal profession was challenged to provide certification services over remote video connections rather than through traditional in person meetings.

There is also considerable confusion between document certification and notarising documents. There is a very important difference, not least of which is that only solicitors holding a practising certificate and who are notaries public can notarise documents.

Certifying and Notarising – what’s the difference?

These are essentially two different categories of certification, one more formal than the other.

For instance, if you need a document confirmed as a true copy, a professional person can do that for you. It is likely that you will have had to do that when, for instance, making a passport application.

However, if you need to sign an Affidavit, it needs to be notarised to have effect. This means making arrangements with a solicitor who is a notary public to allow you to swear or affirm the Affidavit. This is a much more formal process than simple certification.

What’s involved in document certification?

Normally, you will visit our office with the original documents you need certified. You also must bring identification evidence with you. We will check your ID and then take copies of the documents you need us to certify. We will sign and date the copy documents to certify that the copies are authentic and apply the firm’s name and address. Once that has been done, the copy document can be relied upon as if it were the original.

We should point out that we need to have the original documents. We cannot rely on copies you provide. We will copy the original documents and certify those copies and return the originals and hand over the certified copies to you.

In what way is notarising a document different?

We will follow the same procedure regarding your ID as with the document certification process, but that is where it ends. From that point onward, we will follow a notarial execution process.

Then we need to notarise a document, we will take the original document from you. We will then ask if you will swear an oath or affirm the document. We will then administer the oath or affirmation. This involves you making a formal declaration that the contents of the document are true to the best of your knowledge and belief.

We will then ask you to sign the document and the notary public who administered the oath or affirmation will countersign the document and apply their notarial seal.

Once that has been done, the original document holds lawful foundation and can be relied upon in, for example, court proceedings.

Do I need to meet you in your office to have documents certified or notarised?

Whilst it is our preference that you meet with us in our office to have your documents certified or notarised, in exceptional circumstances, however, we can deal with this remotely. As a result of Schedule 4, Part 7 of the Coronavirus (Scotland) (No 2) Act 2020 brought in to allow for remote document certification during the Covid-19 pandemic, remote certification is possible.

The procedure follows the in-person procedure with certain important differences. In the case of certification, we still need the original documents. That includes your original or digital versions of your ID documents as well as the original documents you wish us to certify. We will then have a video meeting with you and follow the same procedure as if you were present in our office. We will then certify the documents you have asked us to deal with and post them back to you.

Notarising documents remotely follows a slightly different procedure. We will, again, meet with you over a video link. Again, we will ask that you send us a copy of the documents you wish us to notarise in advance. We will go through the ID checks as required by the Law Society of Scotland regulations. We will then ask you to read the original of the document you wish to have notarised whilst we follow on the copy you have sent us. We will then ask you to show us that the document is unsigned. We will then administer the oath or affirmation and then ask you to sign the document. We will watch you sign the document and then ask you to show us your signature. When we are satisfied, we will ask you to post the original document to us. When it arrives, we will countersign it and apply the notarial seal. We will then return the notarised documents to you.

If you would like to discuss having us certify or notarise documents for you, please contact us.