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Certifying documents

Written by: Rebecca Greig
Category: Private Client
02 November 2022

When people contact us asking if we can certify documents for them, there can be some confusion between documents being “certified” and having the documents “notarised”. There is a significant difference between the two requirements.

Some examples of documents that need to be certified are as follows:

  • Certifying a true copy of an original document
  • Certifying ID documents for anti-money laundering purposes

On the other hand, there are some documents that need to be notarised. Some examples of these are:

  • International Documents requiring notarial execution
  • Statutory Declarations
  • Affidavits in divorce actions

These are just a small sample of the types of documents where notarial execution is required.

How are documents certified?

Normally, you will come to our office with your ID and the documents you wish to be certified. We check and record your ID. The Law Society of Scotland require all solicitors to verify the identity of individuals for whom we provide this service.

Once we have checked and recorded your ID, we then explain the nature of the documents and what is needed in the certification process.

If you simply require copies or original documents to be certified as true copies, we will take copies of the originals and write on them to certify their authenticity. This also involves dating and signing the copy documents. We will also append the solicitor’s name and add the firm’s details. Once certified, any recipient can then rely on the documents as if they were the originals.

How are documents notarised?

The same procedure is followed to correctly record your identification. However, there is then a departure in the certification process because having documents notarised involves administering an Oath or Affirmation. Where a notarial execution is needed, we will ask you if you wish to swear an oath or make an affirmation. When you’ve told us your preferred choice, we will then administer the oath or affirmation, have you sign the documents and then countersign them and apply a Notarial Seal. These documents can then be relied upon as having a lawful foundation.

What happens if I cannot visit your office?

Normally, when an individual needs to have documents certified or notarised, they need to come to our office and meet with one of our solicitors. However, during the lockdown period of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Scottish Government introduced emergency legislation to allow remote certification of documents. The changes were introduced in the Coronavirus (Scotland) (No 2) Act 2020. Schedule 4, Part 7, sets out the basis on which the notarisation can take place remotely. These provisions have survived the pandemic and are now available for all solicitors to adopt in circumstances where you are unable to physically visit our office.

When remote certification or notarisation of documents is to take place, there is a formal procedure we need to follow. The remote certification or notarisation must take place in a video meeting. Again, we will need to verify your identity before we can go ahead. We should have received digital versions of your ID documents in advance of the meeting. We will then guide you through the process for complying with the identification regulations as required by the Law Society of Scotland in remote situations.

We will then move on to the documents you have asked us to certify or notarise. Again, we will need to have received unsigned copies of the documents you wish us to certify or notarise. We will, again, follow a process that leads to the certification or notarisation.

If notarial certification is needed, will mean we might ask you to read through the copy of the document you have to ensure it is the same as the copy document we have. Once the content of the duplicate documents has been confirmed, we will administer the oath or affirmation and then you will sign your copy of the document. You should then post the original to us or scan and email it to us. We will then countersign and seal the document. Where electronic documents are used, these can be signed electronically by both you and the solicitor administering the oath or affirmation.

Solicitors dealing with document certification and notarisation in East Lothian

As solicitors based in East Lothian with offices in North Berwick and Dunbar, we are well placed to meet with you in person if you need documents certified or notarised. If you live further afield and are unable to attend our office, we will discuss the possibility of remote certification or notarisation. If you would like to discuss having us certify documents or notarise documents, please contact us.

Written by:

Rebecca Greig


We understand the importance of getting to know you and our legal services will be individually tailored to meet your needs and resources. We are happy to act for both individuals and businesses.