A notarial act will take either a public or private form. These are the two types of notarisations that notaries will be asked to draft and execute, and each of these has specific characteristics that distinguish one from the other. Whether the notary will execute a notarial certificate in the private or public form will depend on the nature of the notarisation, i.e. what he is asked to notarise and the purpose of the document.
The notarial act in public form is less commonly encountered by practitioners; these certificates are often also referred to as “public instruments”. The notary will prepare the entire document before its execution and sealing. Ordinarily, the public form notarial certificate will be drafted in narrative form including a preamble, the particulars of his client or clients and the capacities in which they appear before him. The document will then also contain a clause or section which states in words to the effect that the contents have been read to the parties and that they have understood and accept it. The certificate is then signed by the parties, witnessed by the notary, and sealed appropriately. Sometimes, additional witnesses may also be required to co-sign the document; all of this occurs before the notary himself notarises the certificate. An example of a notarial act in public form may include:
- A notarial declaration made by an individual which is either sworn of affirmed before a notary public.
- A notarial declaration of a notary public himself.
- A notarial certificate as to the identity of an individual appearing before the notary.
- A notarial certificate as to the domicile of an individual appearing before the notary.
The private form notarial act is the most common type of notarisation that a practitioner will be asked to perform. In contrast to the public form notarial certificate, the private form will consist of two parts: the first is a private document which the notary is not the author of (although in some cases the notary may also be asked to prepare the documents to be notarised in private form) and the second part is the notarial act which the notary prepares himself and which is attached to the private document. The drafted notarial act is then attached to the private document before the notary’s certificate is duly signed and sealed. Ordinarily, the notary public will not be attesting to the veracity, truth, authenticity or authority of the content of the private document, unless he is specifically retained to do so, in which case the notary will need to engage in a certain level of investigation before notarisation. Examples of notarial acts in the private form may include:
- A notarial certificate witnessing the execution of documents by an individual or a company.
- A notarial declaration as to the exhibition of a document in the presence of the notary.
- Notarised ship’s protest or protest of a bill of exchange.
- A notarial certificate that copies of certain documents are true and correct copies of their originals.
- Notarised international will.
- Notarial certificate authenticating an annexed document.
- Notarised Power of Attorney.