What is a Notary Public?

A notary public (sometimes just called a "notary"), provides certain kinds of legal services to the public.

Notaries have been around for more than 2000 years — back to the dawn of recorded history. Notaries laid down the Codex Hammurabi, the oldest evidence of recorded law. Notaries were also employed by the Catholic Church to guide the light of civilization through the Dark Ages. The Notary's reputation for trustworthiness meant that documents retained a stable reliability throughout centuries of upheaval.

BC Notaries are governed by the Notaries Act of BC and the discipline of their professional society.

Today, Notaries are a sanctioned branch of the legal profession, safeguarded by law. BC Notaries are unique in North America. Please see our Home Page for some of the services we provide.

What's the difference between a Notary Public and a lawyer?

While notaries and lawyers both provide legal services to the public, notaries focus only on non-contentious issues such as real estate, estate planning, and other documentation.

We do not go to court on behalf of our clients, as lawyers do, nor can we provide services for certain other kinds of disputes, such as family relations issues (separations or divorces).

Notaries carry professional liability insurance, as do lawyers.

If you're not sure whether we can help you, or you need a referral to a lawyer, call us. We will ask you about the kind of services you need, explain what we can and cannot do, and where necessary, refer you to a qualified lawyer.

What are your fees?

Our fees vary, of course, depending on the service you need. The best way to find out what our fees will be for the kind of service you need is to call us and tell us exactly what you need.

For example, if you need a document "notarized", the fee will differ depending on whether:

  • you have already prepared and completed (but not signed) the form, and there is only one form
  • you want us to draw the form for you
  • you need legal advice on the form's contents
  • there are multiple forms, or the form requires multiple "notarizations"

As another example, if you are buying or selling a home, you will need to be aware of three different kinds of costs:

  • our fees, which will differ depending on whether you are buying or selling, whether there is a mortgage involved (and with which bank), and whether everyone involved is in or out of town.
  • disbursements, which could include Land Title Office fees, title search fees, strata documentation fees, government agency fees, courier fees, appraisal fees, title insurance fees, etc... .
  • taxes, including HST

Call us and explain what you want to do, and we will give you an estimate of what it could cost. Please note that this estimate could change, if your circumstances change, or if the work you need done turns out to include additional work or advice.

What does a Will do?

A Will is a legal document that tells your family and friends what you want them to do with your estate. It speaks for you after you have died.

Your "estate" includes any money, real property or other assets that you own in your sole name. It does not generally include assets you own in joint tenancy with another person (such as your home), or assets which have a designated beneficiary on them (such as life insurance, RRSPs, RRIFs or some pensions).

In your Will, you appoint someone (an executor) to follow your instructions and distribute your estate the way you want. If you have minor children, you should appoint guardians for your children in order to minimize or prevent government intervention in guardianship.

In BC, you have some important legal obligations to certain family members. We can explain what these obligations are.

If you have assets in another province or country, you might need a Will for that jurisdiction as well.

If you do not have a Will, your estate will be distributed according to BC's intestacy laws. These laws might not give you the exact result you want, so it is important to find out how your estate would be distributed under them.

For example, if your spouse is younger than you are, and you die in the same car accident, your estates could be given to your spouse's parents, with nothing going to your family, if you don't have any children. Gifts to friends or charities do not exist under our current intestacy rules.

What if I want to cut someone out of my Will?

Everyone in BC has certain legal obligations to their spouse and children.

After you have died, and a copy of your Will has been sent to your heirs and family members for review, your spouse and children have a legal right to go to court and ask a Judge to change your Will if they think that they were not properly looked after in your Will.

Other family members (such as a parent, sibling or cousin), and your friends do not have this right; only your spouse and children do.

If you want to cut a spouse or child out of your Will, please tell us this before we work on your behalf. This is not something you should do lightly. You must have very good reasons for making this decision; reasons that an independent, impartial judge would understand and agree with. You cannot simply cut someone out of your Will because you have not seen them for a long time, because you had an argument with them many years ago, or because they have a substance abuse problem or personality disorder. These issues do not override your legal obligations. In fact, cutting someone out of your Will, or leaving them a nominal gift (such as $1), could simply mean your estate will end up in court, in a law suit.

We will review your situation with you, and explain the way the law works in these situations. In some cases (for example, when you want to create certain kinds of trusts), it might be appropriate for us to refer you to a lawyer who specializes in estate litigation, to draw up your Will for you.

You need to be "of sound mind" in order to draw up a Will or a Power of Attorney, so don't wait until it's too late.

What is a Power of Attorney?

A Power of Attorney is a legal document that appoints someone to look after your legal and financial affairs for you, while you are alive.

Powers of Attorney are important, but they can also be very dangerous. You must really trust the person you appoint as your "attorney", because they will be able to do anything with your finances that you can do. This means that they can sign cheques on your behalf, enter into contracts, or clean out your bank accounts!

Powers of Attorney do not allow the person you appoint to make decisions for you about personal care (getting shelter or clothing, your diet, or who you socialize with), or your health care (whether you have an operation, tests, dental cleaning, etc.). Different documents are needed for these issues.

A common misconception is that your attorney cannot act until you become incapable. Unless your Power of Attorney specifically says your attorney cannot act until two doctors declare you incompetent (called a "springing Power of Attorney"), your Power of Attorney is good as soon as you sign it.

You need to be "of sound mind" in order to draw up a Will or a Power of Attorney, so don't wait until it's too late.