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Notary Bulletin

Worldwide Law Changes Impact Notarial Role Overseas, Could Impact U.S.

Major worldwide changes to Notary systems are granting more powers in some regions, while decreasing privileges in others to make the Notary profession more competitive. While the role of U.S. Notaries tends to be more limited in scope than those performing the role elsewhere, these global law updates may have a lasting impact on Notaries everywhere.

Notaries in Europe have long held the most power, often controlling real estate and other business transactions. With their fees generally fixed by the government, they are able to prosper due to either to limitations on their numbers or by virtue of their critical role in European societies.

In France, for example, Notaires hold a monopoly on conveying property, while entrepreneurs in Germany must receive official seals from a Notar in order to establish a company.

But a review by The Economist magazine found that many of these systems inhibited business transactions and economic growth. As a result, reported the magazine, many nations have moved to make substantial changes:

  • France expanded the authority to create binding contracts to lawyers
  • Portugal has enacted reforms that cut the time it takes to establish a new business from 11 weeks to one.
  • Holland eliminated the cap on the number of Notaries and fixed fees.
  • Italy and Bulgaria earlier this year moved to open up the profession.
  • The European Commission ruled last year that European Union members must open their Notary systems to professionals from all member nations.

These changes could increase competition and deflate prior domestic monopolies, making it easier to do business, especially across international boundaries.

With changes in laws now changing the ways Notaries operate overseas, some American legal experts are taking a look at the profession at home in an effort to help decrease the chance of property fraud, as seen in the recent “robo-signing” crisis.

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