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Tom Ginot Notary Public | Boutique Notary Public & Native Hebrew Speaker | London, UK

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a Solicitor and a Notary Public?

A Notary Public carries out an entirely different role to that of a Solicitor. Most Notaries are also Solicitors but the two roles are distinct and subject to separate rules, regulations and requirements. Solicitors cannot provide notarial services unless they have also qualified as Notaries - a process that involves additional training and background checks.


The main differences between Solicitors and Notaries are:

  • Solicitors can provide wide range of services from commercial litigation to conveyancing and criminal law to wills and probate. A Notary Public focuses on one highly specialised area – the preparation and authentication of documents for use overseas.

  • Solicitors have an overriding duty to act in the best interests of their clients. A Notary Public’s primary duty however is to the transaction itself ensuring that the notarised document can be relied on by the client but also by third parties involved in the transaction (such as foreign government authorities and international trading partners).

Solicitors are a much larger branch of the legal profession – there are around 150,000 solicitors in England & Wales compared to approximately 775 notaries.

When might you need a notary?

You need a Notary Public if you are told by, say, your lawyer or other representative abroad that your document needs to be “notarised”.

A Notary Public will be able to authenticate your document so that it satisfies the requirements of this country and the receiving country. Essentially, a Notary Public acts as a facilitator of an international transaction. You can also learn more about the services I provide to both individuals and business clients.

A Notary Public can also assist to arrange for documents to be legalised at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and the relevant embassy/consular office in the UK. Please click here for more information about legalisation. 

Why do I need to sign in front of a notary?

If a document is going to be used abroad you will usually require the signature and seal of a Notary Public so that anyone who will use/receive the document in the foreign country will recognise the document as validly signed by the appropriate person/people. Every Notary Public in the UK has a unique official seal which is engraved with a personal symbol. Documents that have this seal and signed by a Notary Public are internationally recognised and treated as strong evidence of the truthfulness of the information contained within the said document. 

The Notary Public therefore has the overall responsibility to make sure that the document in question is genuine and is not the object of fraud or forgery. Inevitably, this means that I have to spend some time to review the relevant document and this would have to be reflected in my costs. 

Once the document has the signature and seal of a Notary Public, it can be recognised in the relevant foreign country. Without this authentication, documents that require notarisation will not be accepted abroad. Many countries however also require a further level of security so, as well as being notarised, the document must also be ‘legalised’.

Can I simply turn up to sign a document?

No. Clients can only attend my office by prior appointment. Please contact me to arrange an appointment and be prepared to provide me with: (1) a copy of the document in advance (where convenient); (2) details of the country where the document is to be used together with details of the timescale in which the document is required; and (3) any letter or other form of instructions which you have received about what has to be done with the document.

I will then be able to advise you on whether the document will need to be legalised in addition to being signed before me – please bear in mind that my standard legalisation service is likely to take several working days. For urgent matters however special arrangements can be made.

Which documents I will need to bring to my appointment?

This will really depend on the matter in question and the documents involved.


Generally speaking, it is likely that you will need to provide evidence of your identity and, if you are acting on behalf of a company, evidence of your authority to do so, the documents to be notarised and any instructions you have received from the receiving country. I will always need to see all of the documentation before accepting instructions and certainly before you meet me. 

As part of my duty to verify my clients' identity, I will need you to provide me with one of the following identification documents at the time of the appointment:

  • Valid passport; or

  • Valid driving licence (with photo card).

In addition, I will need you to provide me with a proof of your address in the UK, which can be confirmed by one of the following original documents (dated within the last three months):

  • Bank statement or letter from bank;

  • Proof of postal address, i.e. utility bill or council tax bill (note that online printouts are not accepted); or

  • HMRC's tax demand or self-assessment statement.

If you are signing a document on behalf of a foreign company (i.e. not a UK company), I may need to ask you to show me evidence that the company exists and that you are authorised to represent it. 

Please refer to my Terms of Business in case you have any further questions.

What is an Apostille or Legalisation?

Certain countries may also require an additional step of 'legalising' the document once it has been notarised by a Notary Public. Legalisation provides confirmation to the recipient that the Notary Public's signature and seal are authentic. This process involves sending the document to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office which then attach a certificate called an ‘Apostille’ to the notarised document confirming the Notary Public's signature and seal. Whether an Apostille will be required to be endorsed on your document will depend on whether the receiving country of your document is a member of The Hague Convention.

For some countries,  Consular or Embassy certification may also be required. In these cases, I can advise you on the relevant process and the cost and would be able to arrange this for you.

For more details about my legalisation service please click here.

Documents in foreign languages

From time to time, a document drawn in a foreign language is required to be officially translated into English and vice versa. For instance, a client may be required to sign a document drawn in a foreign language which he does not read or understand. Alternatively, a client may be asked by the authorities in the receiving country to translate a document drawn in English to a different foreign language. In these circumstances, I will be able to help you to obtain an official translation from highly qualified and experienced translators with recognised accreditation.

Please refer to my Terms of Business in case you have any further questions.

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