Many people need to get a document notarized, for example for a bank when they are setting up a mortgage or dealing with government paperwork. Unfortunately, when people use the term “notarized”, they can be referring to several different situations, which causes people to be confused as to what they actually need. This misunderstanding can result in you spending unnecessary money on the wrong thing, and delay your end result.

Notarial copy – this is an official copy of a document that has been certified as a true copy by a Notary. A Notarial Copy can only be made from an original, not a scanned or copied version. People often need Notarial Copies in situations where you do not want to lose your original, such as supplemental documentation for an application to school, or for official copies of identification for immigration or travel documents.

Commissioned or Sworn – this is a document that has been officially sworn or declared as true before a Commissioner of Oaths. People often need oaths, affidavits, affirmations, or declarations for legal documents, such as court paperwork or government filings. In Ontario, some people are qualified Commissioners of Oaths by their profession, such as lawyers, police officers, and Notary Publics, while other Commissioners have been appointed for a fixed period of time. Courthouses and Municipal Offices will often have Commissioners who can take oaths for the public. A document is commissioned with the signature of the Commissioner, and a stamp confirming their qualifications and expiry date, if required. Generally, you can only have documents for use in Ontario commissioned in Ontario, otherwise you will require the document to be Notarized.

Notarized – this is a document that has been executed in the presence of qualified person who confirmed the identity of the signor. To have something witnessed by a Notary, you will need to provide photo identification confirming who you are, and will need to sign the document in front of someone regulated under the Notaries Act. You cannot have a pre-signed document witnessed by a Notary, nor can you get a document witnessed for someone else. If you require documents to be used out-of-province or another country, including oaths, affidavits, affirmations, or declarations, they will need to be Notarized. In addition to the signature of the Notary, and any stamp confirming their qualifications, these documents will also contain the official seal of the Notary.

Independent Legal Advice – some documents that need to be witnessed in an official capacity also require legal advice. Legal advice in Ontario can only be provided by a lawyer qualified to practice in Ontario; conversely, lawyers in Ontario may not be qualified to provide legal advice for other jurisdictions. Independent Legal Advice (also known as ILA) means that the signor has met with a lawyer who has explained the nature of the document and how they are bound by it prior to witnessing any signatures.  People frequently need ILA for legal documents they will be bound by but that are prepared for other parties, such as a separation agreement, guarantee, or mortgage document. In order to provide ILA, the lawyer will need all relevant information; if you are looking for ILA, be prepared to provide additional information or other documents.