As 2014 draws to an end, you may reflect upon all the changes that have taken place throughout the year. Perhaps you have celebrated a birth, or have mourned the death of a loved one. For some, marriages may have come to an end; for others, new relationships have begun. Maybe you even took part in an important investment this year, such as buying or selling a home.
It is likely that these changes were accompanied by some form of paperwork. One of the services our office offers is to assist clients with signing this paperwork. We often receive phone calls with requests to have documents commissioned or notarized. Although similar, these phrases mean different things.
A Commissioner for Oaths is an individual formally appointed by the Alberta government to administer oaths, affirmations, and solemn declarations. In Alberta, any individual over the age of 18 can apply to become a Commissioner for Oaths.
In essence, a Commissioner for Oaths’ role is to verify the truth of statements made by an individual. They do so by having the individual appear before them and administering an oath – either on the Bible or by affirmation – that the contents of that particular document are true to the best of the individual’s knowledge.
A Notary Public is also formally appointed by the Alberta government. The Notaries Public Act identifies individuals who are qualified to become Notaries Public. Those individuals include lawyers, students-at-law, judges, and political representatives.
A Notary is qualified to perform the same tasks as a Commissioner for Oaths, as well as some additional duties. For instance, a Commissioner can only sign documents that are to be used within Alberta. Comparatively, a Notary can sign documents regardless of where they were drafted or will be used (such as paperwork for sale of property in another province or an authorization for children to travel to another country). A Notary can also verify that a document is a true copy of its original, whereas a Commissioner cannot. Finally, particular legislation in Alberta may specify that documents must be notarized, not commissioned. The Alberta Guarantees Acknowledgment Act is an example of such legislation, and so only Notaries have the authority to endorse personal guarantees or certificates pursuant to this Act.
It is important to keep in mind that, whether you are having your document commissioned or notarized, you should thoroughly understand the document itself. Even if you are paying a fee to have a Commissioner for Oaths or Notary Public sign your document, this does not mean they are providing advice about the document. So, be sure that you understand the content of a document and its effect before you sign it.
If you are still unsure whether your document should be commissioned or notarized, or have questions about the document itself, make sure that you are getting advice from the appropriate individual before you sign. Our office would be happy to answer any questions you have to ensure those important changes in your life (and all the documentation that may accompany them) go smoothly.
As an aside, I would like to take this opportunity to send warm holiday wishes to the Medicine Hat community on behalf of the partners and staff at Pritchard & Co. Law Firm. We hope everyone has a safe and joyous holiday season, and wish you all the best in 2015!