What is a Notary Public?

What is a Notary Public and When Do You Need One?

A notary public is usually a barrister or solicitor who has been appointed to that position by the Supreme Court in their respective state. However, in Queensland,the English Archbishop appoints notaries public.

When would you need a notary public?

A notary public is mainly used by people who need documents signed and witnessed for use outside Australia.

For example, if you have business documents that need to be filed with an overseas authority, then you will likely need a notary public to notarise those documents before you send them overseas.

A common reason that a person would use a notary public is if they need family law documents witnessed and signed for use in family law proceedings outside Australia.

Another example is if a person lost their Australian passport while on vacation. They would need to have identity documents notarised here in Australia to be used overseas in order to issue a passport to get home.

How are documents sealed?

As soon as a notary public signs the documents that they have witnessed, they affix their official seal – which is either red or metallic sticker or an official stamp (so they have then ‘notarised’ the document). These must be placed as near to the signature as they can.

All notaries public have their signatures recorded in a database held by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) as well as the Supreme Court or authority that appointed them.

What a notary public must check before signing

  1. They must check the identity of the signatory by examining their current drivers licence or another piece of photo identification (e.g. passport if they don’t have a driver’s licence).
  2. They must check that the signatory has full capacity to sign the documents.
  3. They need to make sure that the signatory knows the contents of the document that they are signing.
  4. If a signatory is acting in an official capacity for a company, the notary public must make sure that the signatory has authority to sign for the company.
  5. If they believe that the document provided to them is fraud or an illegal, they must refuse to provide notary services.

What is the main difference between a notary public and a Justice of the Peace?

Unlike a notary public, a Justice of the Peace cannot sign for documents that are to be used outside of Australia.

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