Why Do I Need a Notary?


Why Do I Need a Notary?

Why Do I Need a Notary?
What’s Wrong With Going to a Regular Lawyer
or Even to My Trusted Pharmacist, Like in the US?!

Notaries Around The World

The common perception of the term “Notary” is of a mature and respected person, authenticating a signature on a document bearing a red ribbon and tab, sealed with the notarial seal and signed by the Notary. Traditionally, notaries recorded matters of judicial importance as well as private transactions or events where an officially authenticated record or a document drawn up with professional skill or knowledge was required.

What is hidden behind the notarial document? What is its significance and validity, both on the local and international plane?

Notaries have had their “notarial acts” recognized worldwide for centuries and this, indeed, has permitted citizens and businesses to circulate freely. In this way Notaries facilitate commerce and the life for the ordinary citizen as notarial acts enable them to go about their daily lives and business freely at reasonable cost and without undue delay. A Notary holds an official seal and notarial acts have probative force. Notarial acts under the signature and seal of a Notary are recognized as evidence of a responsible official legal officer in all countries of the world. They may be received in evidence without further proof as duly authenticated in accordance with the requirements of the law unless the contrary is proved.

Israeli Notaries vs. US Notaries

To become an Israeli Notary, one must be a lawyer of 10 (until 2003 – 15) years seniority, with no criminal record, no complaints against him/her at the Israel Bar Association, and must have undergone a training course. This contrasts with other countries, such as the USA, in which notaries need not be lawyers. Notaries in the United States are much less closely regulated than notaries in most other common-law countries, typically because U.S. notaries have little legal authority. Thus, in most states in the United States, a lay Notary may not offer legal advice or prepare documents and cannot generally recommend how a person should sign a document or what type of notarization is necessary.

Title companies in the USA have notaries attend signings for the purchase of real estate, because state laws generally dictate that the purchasers’ signatures must be “notarized.” This is because such companies essentially trust a Notary Public, by looking at the person’s original identification, to verify that the people signing such important documents are who they say they are. Similarly, financial institutions use notaries for loan signings, and other projects where monies or property are exchanged. This heads off potential problems down the road, if the question of identity ever arises.

Powers of Israeli Notaries

Section 7(1) of the Israeli Notaries Law, 5736-1976, clarifies that the first power and authority an Israeli Notary has is to authenticate signatures. But this is not the sole field of authority of the Notary, who is also authorized to witness and authenticate notarized translations of documents, notarized copies of documents, notarized Wills, irrevocable powers of attorney in favor of mortgage banks, powers of attorney in favor of non-lawyers, notarized pre-nuptial agreements, etc.

Signature verification/certification/authentication on a document by a Notary is mandated by Israeli law in a number of situations. These include

  • An irrevocable power of attorney in favor of a mortgage bank, empowering the bank to register the property to be mortgaged in the borrower’s name, and later also to register the mortgage, in the event that the borrower fails to perform these activities. This enables the bank to guarantee the payment of the mortgage.
  • An irrevocable power of attorney in respect to a new property (e.g. an apartment) in favor of a building contractor, empowering the contractor to undertake all of the registration formalities at the relevant land registration bodies (e.g. registering the building as a cooperative house (bayit meshutaf) in the Land Registry.

In view of the tremendous importance of these powers of attorney and because the rights of third parties are dependent on them, they will be irrevocable, meaning that they cannot be cancelled after they have been made. The special notarial stamp and seal on these documents is designed to prevent their forgery. By contrast, in other cases, which do not have such a significant impact on those involved, a regular (non-notarial) power of attorney may suffice, e.g. for the Municipality or cellular phone companies.

  • A power of attorney in favor of a relative or other third party, empowering such other person (the ‘agent’) to act on behalf of the ‘donor’ of the power, whether in general or for a specific purpose – for example:
    • to undertake banking transactions
    • to take any legal steps necessary to collect debts owed to the donor
    • to maintain/operate any business of the donor
    • to enter into binding contracts
    • to perform any other function (e.g. collecting mail) on the donor’s behalf.

Moreover, if a legal document is being signed in Israel to be used overseas, the foreign country will usually require the document to be witnessed by an Israeli Notary rather than a regular attorney/solicitor. This is because the Notary’s qualification is recognized abroad and the Notary’s signature can be verified. Common examples of overseas transactions that need a Notary include medical professionals applying to work abroad, granting power of attorney to a title company to buy or purchase land on one’s behalf in the USA or according an overseas law firm legal authority to sue a defaulting tenant for unpaid rent on property one owns overseas.

For the purpose of a notarial certification of signature, the signatory must present to the Notary original means of identification at the time s/he signs the document. Acceptable means of identification include a National Identity Card (teudat zehut) or passport. The Notary is required by law to confirm the identification of the person signing the document; hence the need for original identifying documentation.

Why Pay for a Notarized Translation?

The importance of having an accurate translation cannot be overstated. Any error in the translation can cost the client in valuable time and the expenses of having to redo an incorrectly translated document. The provision of an accurate translation ensures that the client is spared a myriad of potential hassles, including running back and forth between the translator and the Notary, who is responsible for the correctness of the translation. A notarized translation of a document is an internationally recognized guarantee that the translation accurately reflects what was written in the original language of the document. It is for this reason that many institutions (the courts, banks, most foreign governments etc.) will only accept notarial translations.

For convenience, clients are welcome to simply e-mail the documents in need of translation. We can then translate and notarize the documents in as expeditious a manner as possible and simply mail them to the client’s address, or to any other address in Israel or abroad, in accordance with the client’s request.

It is our official policy, in the case of all standard documents (including marriage certificates, divorce certificates, birth certificates etc.), to charge the client only for the notarization at the rate prescribed by law, and to charge nothing extra for the time spent in translating the document and for the mailing of the notarized document to the client in Israel.

Before requesting a notary translation, we suggest that you verify what kind of certificate is required by the body demanding the notary certificate, and whether the institution is prepared to accept a single certificate for several different documents, or requires a separate certificate for each individual document. Certain foreign countries may also require an apostille to be affixed on specific public documents or notarial approvals.

What exactly is an “apostille” – you may be wondering?

Apostille is a French word meaning certification. An apostille certificate is an internationally recognized authentication, under the terms of the 1961 Hague Convention, confirming the authenticity of an official document, such as:

  • birth certificates
  • marriage certificates
  • death certificates
  • matriculation certificates
  • certificates of incorporation of a company.

A document which bears an apostille certification of a country that is a party to the convention will be recognized by all the other countries that are party to the Hague Convention as an authentic document that is issued by the authorized body in the country of origin of the document. In Israel, apostille certifications of official documents are given by the Foreign Ministry.

Occasionally, an apostille certificate may be required by an overseas body for a notarized document prepared by a notary in Israel, thus giving the document legal validation in those foreign countries that have signed the Convention (including most western countries). In Israel there is a certifying authority for this purpose – the local courts – in every major city (in Jerusalem, for example, apostilles can be obtained from the Magistrates Court (Beit Mishpat HaShalom) at 6 Heshin Street (Room 229A), The Russian Compound, Jerusalem, Sunday-Thursday, between 08:30-13:30). The court affixes a sticker to the back of the notary’s certificate, for a nominal fee in stamp duty.

The apostille thus authenticates the notary’s work, confirming the notary stamp and the notary’s authority to approve notarial documents. For those countries who are not parties to the Hague Convention, notarized translations must be validated by the relevant country’s Consulate, or at the Foreign Office, in Israel.

When Ought a Will to be Notarized?

By Israeli law, a last will and testament is valid if signed by its maker (known also as the ‘testator’/’testatrix’) in the presence of two ordinary witnesses. At times, however, a person making a will may choose to sign it before an Israeli Notary. The Notary confirms that the will has been read to the testator and that the testator declared of his own volition that it was his will.

The advantage of signing a will before a Notary is two-fold:

  • the testator may state his will orally or in writing in the Notary’s presence, without the need for any additional witnesses;
  • a notarial will has stronger weight than other types of wills under Israeli law (it is akin to a will signed before a judge), thus eliminating the potential for any future claims of fraudulent signature by the testator, such as on the basis of undue influence or duress, which might result in the will’s disqualification.

Drafting and Notarization of Affidavits

Generally speaking, an affidavit does not require signing before a notary (signing before an ordinary Israeli attorney often suffices). Where the authorities do require the provision of a notarized affidavit, attendance in person at the notary’s office is required, because the notary is required by law to confirm the client’s identification before signing the affidavit. The notary can also draft the wording of the affidavit on the client’s behalf (in simple cases, this can even be prepared in advance of the client’s visit, following an e-mail and/or telephone call conveying the information that the affidavit is to include, thus saving time for the client).

The signatory will need to present to the notary acceptable means of identification at the time s/he signs the document. Original identifying documentation is required, including one’s teudat zehut (National Identity Card) or passport. To save time, it is recommended to e-mail us a clear copy of the identification documents in advance of your visit. If the client is unable to attend our offices, the notary can travel to his/her place of abode (including his/her home, office or even hospital bed where necessary) for a supplemental fee as prescribed by the law.

Notarial Certification of True Copies of Documents

Certification of a true copy is a certificate approving that a copy of a document is true and identical to the original document. Such certification may be issued by an Israeli advocate or by a licensed Israeli notary, depending on the client’s requirements and purposes. For example, certification by a notary will often be required in order to certify true copies of parents’ passports when applying for a passport for their child. The confirmation is given for every kind of document, irrespective of the language in which the document is written.

Authentication of Signatures on Prenuptial Agreements

A prenuptial agreement is an agreement made by a couple, in advance of their marriage, settling all matters of assets and finances between couples. Such an agreement can save the couple much financial and emotional heartache in the event of divorce, separation or death.

The law determines that for a pre-nuptial agreement to be binding, it must be signed before a notary or before the Family Court. If the agreement is not approved in one of these ways, it will be unenforceable.

In order to receive a prenuptial agreement approval, the parties must sign in the presence of the notary.

Notarized Life Certificates

A notarized life certificate is a certificate confirming that a specific person is alive. Compensation payments from Germany, for example, require the presentation of a notarized life certificate, confirming that the beneficiary is alive. An individual living outside of Israel and who benefits from payments from the Israeli government or other Israeli agencies, such as the National Insurance Institute (Bituach Leumi), pension funds, etc., is sometimes required to show proof of life by obtaining a Life Certificate from the Israeli Consulate or Embassy in their region.

Who Sets The Fees For Notarial Procedures?

The fees for notarial procedures are set by the Israeli Ministry of Justice (Misrad HaMishpatim) and notaries are prohibited by law from charging more or less than the fixed tariffs! The fees are updated annually by the Ministry, according to fluctuations in the Consumer Price Index (madad).

Why then, in conclusion, do notarial signatures carry more weight than non-notarized signatures and why are the fees for notarial procedures high, relative to procedures performed by other professionals in Israel?

In the case of a notarized authentication of a person’s signature, the assumption is that the signatory has signed the relevant document in the knowledge that he is aware of what he signed and the legal consequences of signing it.

In the case of a notarized will, the presumption is that the testator was of sound mind and memory and free from any influence or duress whatsoever, when signing his Will. Notarized wills can thus be kept totally secret – no-one need know of their existence.

As for notarized translations, these form an internationally recognized guarantee that their content accurately reflects what was written in the original language of the document.

For further information on notarial procedures, including notarized signatures, translations, wills and pre-nuptial agreements, feel free to contact me directly at 0737-40-60-40 / 0545-742-374 / [email protected]


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