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

Feb 17, 2013 in 1. Notary Services, Blog | 0 comments

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.

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 (for more on which, see here), 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. 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.

Notarial signatures carry more weight than non-notarized signatures. The assumption will be 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.

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

Notarized translations are an internationally recognized guarantee that their content accurately reflects what was written in the original language of the document. For further information on notarized signatures, translations, wills and pre-nuptial agreements, feel free to contact Simon directly at: simon@jacksonadvocates.net / 0737-40-60-40 / 0545-742-374.

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