A stack of documents accompanies every real estate transaction—buying, selling or refinancing. When it’s time to read and sign that paperwork, a legal professional can help you understand the details. But should you hire a notary or lawyer? Let’s look at a few similarities and differences between notaries and lawyers.
It’s true that lawyers spend years toiling in law school. Yet becoming a notary also requires a significant commitment. A notary practicing in British Columbia needs an undergraduate degree and a master of arts in applied legal studies. Plus every notary spends six weeks training with the Society of Notaries, completes a mentorship program and must pass the society’s final exam.
Years ago, it was possible to become a notary through correspondence, but this isn’t the case today. A master’s degree has been mandatory for notaries for the past decade.
Non-contentious legal services
Like lawyers, notaries are commissioned by the Supreme Court of British Columbia to provide legal advice and services. Notaries can’t represent you in court, but if the need were to arise, a good notary would refer you to a capable barrister.
A solicitor, which is a type of lawyer whose practice focuses on providing legal advice, probably wouldn’t represent you in court either. Like a notary, a solicitor would refer you to a barrister to handle litigation.
Independent legal advice
Notaries can provide the same independent legal advice as solicitors. Let’s say a married couple owns a piece of land together. For tax reasons—or any reason, as long as they aren’t separating—the couple wants to transfer the title to one spouse. The spouse whose name is coming off the title needs to sign the paperwork with an independent legal representative. That representative—whether a notary or lawyer—explains the document and ensures the client fully understands the consequences of signing it.
Yet this advice isn’t limited to real estate. A notary can provide legal advice for contracts (leases, rental agreements, etc.) and personal planning documents (wills, powers of attorney, etc.). Whether you deal with a notary or solicitor, a good legal representative will read the paperwork and clearly explain the details to you before you sign. Because solicitors and notaries are both qualified to provide legal advice, the quality of this service depends on the individual you’re working with, and not their being a notary or lawyer.
Notaries and lawyers charge similar rates for similar services. At Zancope Notary Public, our rates are competitive and transparent. We don’t add service charges to title searches and don’t bill for faxes and phone calls. We take the time to meet with clients personally, answer their questions and ensure they understand everything they need to sign.
If you want to learn more about our services, visit this page or give us a call. We’d love answer any questions you might have about real estate transactions, independent legal representation, personal planning and more.
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