Certain documents require notarization in order to be legally enforceable, including affidavits, deeds and powers of attorney. The role of the notary is to act as an impartial witness to the signing of legally binding documents. The notary makes sure that the signer is actually the person named on the document and that he or she has not been forced to sign against his or her will.
What happens when there is a legal matter occurring in New York State, but one or more parties to the matter are in another country?
In this case, your attorney will need to check the laws that govern the matter to determine what acceptable alternatives there are. For example, if you are engaged in a real estate transaction, then the attorney would review New York State Real Property Law Section 301 (RPL §301), which outlines who can act as a notary outside the U.S.:
- A diplomatic or consular agent or representative of the United States who is appointed or accredited to and resides with the country where the document is to be notarized;
- A judge, presiding officer of a court with a seal, or court clerk (or any certifying officer of a court);
- A chief civil officer (e.g. mayor) of a city or political subdivision;
- A commissioner of deeds appointed to notarize documents according to the laws of the state of New York;
- A notary public;
- A person residing in or going to the country where the document is to be notarized and who is authorized to do so under the seal of the Supreme Court of the New York State; or
- Any person authorized under the laws of the country where the document must be notarized to have the power to notarize that document.
If you find yourself needing to sign a document and get it notarized while you are in another country, be sure to consult with your attorney on the appropriate action to take to ensure it will be valid in New York State courts. Not doing so could cause unnecessary, lengthy and possibly costly delays to your matter.