Be Cautious. Understand Your Document Before You Sign It. Make Sense?

A Note of Caution, Always a Good Idea. Do You Understand Your Document?

When you come to see me as a Notary, I will facilitate your transaction. I mean, I will make the documentation you sign in my presence acceptable to the foreign jurisdiction.

If it needs two witnesses in addition to me [South Africa, Zimbabwe, California USA, India] we will provide them.

If it needs two witnesses of whom I can be one, [Florida USA] we will do that.

If the document needs to be signed by you in the presence of witnesses and then notarized in respect of the witnesses only, [some Caribbean Countries] we will do that.

If the document needs Foreign and Commonwealth Apostille after notarization [most Countries] we will do that.

If it needs Arab-British Chamber stamps [Middle Eastern Countries], we do it.

Consular legalisation [China, UAE, many others], yes we do.

If it needs translating into Portuguese [Dominican Republic] guess what, yes, we do that too.

There is more, but perhaps the point is made that whatever is needed to ensure your document is correct for the jurisdiction to which you will send it [and of course, we can send it there for you, by FedEx] – we know what to do and we will do it well.

HOWEVER, all of the above is relating to the form and manner of execution of your paperwork. The notarial gift-wrapping, you could say.

What we cannot do, and must not do if we could, is explain to you the meaning of the paperwork you are asking us to witness. Still less, give you any advice as to whether you are doing the sensible thing.

We cannot tell you whether your proposed Attorney is honest.

We cannot tell you whether your Chinese language paperwork exactly reflects your intentions and is correctly worded for use in the Chinese Court.

And of course if the document is written in American, we cannot necessarily translate it into English for you.

Some aspects of the American language are understood here in England. Sidewalk, elevator. Even the use of the French word “Entree” – in the rest of the world meaning the starter course of a meal – to describe the main course.

Or the use of the English word “Fillet” [properly pronounced FILLETT] as if it were French and pronounced FEELLAY. Herbs with that? No, URBS please.

And as Jeremy Clarkson points out, the Yankees build their cars with the steering wheel on the wrong side.

Which is fine in a way, but does of course mean that the driver can’t reach it.

Which again is OK, as long as the passenger knows how to drive.

So my point is, that with an American document, the fact that the words used are mainly in the English Dictionaries, does not mean that I, or you if you are not yourself an American Lawyer, actually understand them. So you really should take advice from a suitably US-qualified lawyer or else you take risks.

Yesterday I assisted a client who has resolved a dispute with third parties in the US who have agreed to pay him money in settlement of a claim. The document he has been required to sign is a release and discharge, stating the terms of the settlement payment and including the words “receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged”.

I asked him when he had received the money, for which the paper is his clear receipt and was told – “I haven’t had anything yet – I will get it when I return the form”.

He probably will, but, you know – really??

I mean, by that logic, they might as well have asked him to sign and have notarised a blank piece of paper, on the basis that they would fill the words in later. The Receipt, to be signed before payment was made, is Nonsense, to an English perspective. And yet, fairly standard practice in the States.

Here’s a nonsense song.

Anyway, once you are sure that your document fully accords not only with your intentions and requirement, but also with the relevant foreign law and practice, do get in touch and we will do the needful with witnesses, certificates, Consular and FCO stamps, ribbons string and couriers.

Contact me or Louise Morley here at AtkinsonNotary [0113 816 0116 or] where we shall be more than happy to assist further.