Do I Need a Notary?
A notary public is a legal officer who can witness and authenticate documents and signatures. For the purposes of authentication, many countries require commercial or personal documents which originate from, or are signed in, another country to, be notarised. Notaries in Israel must be Israeli lawyers of 10 years seniority, with no criminal record, no complaints against them at the Israel Bar and must have undergo a one day training course. In some countries, notably the USA, notaries are not lawyers.
Do I need a notary? The answer to that question is usually “no“. Actually people often do not bother asking the question and, I suspect, end up paying for a service they do not need! Rarely will an Israeli need, or an Israeli official office demand notarisation of a document or signature. Exceptions are: pre-nuptial agreements, wills, irrevocable powers-of-attorney and powers-of-attorney to a non-lawyer. If you are American or need something from American officialdom the answer will probably be “yes“. For some reason the US authorities (and US banks and other institutions) like to have various documents and signatures notarised. For example, when President Richard Nixon resigned he had his resignation letter notarised! You cannot have a US notary notarise a document or signature in Israel, because, as I understand it, US notaries can only act in the US state that they are licensed for. On the other hand notarisations are inherently international. So, if you are an American (or other nationality), and you need a document or signature notarised, certified or legalised in Israel for Israel or for abroad – you must go to an Israeli notary (unless you can be bothered to go to the US or other consulate).
Apostille is a French word which means certification. It is commonly used in English to refer to the legalisation of a document for international use under the terms of the 1961 Hague Convention, an international treaty that abolished the requirement of legalisation for foreign public documents (that previously might have had to be done at a consulate or the Foreign Office where the notary acted). So nowadays documents which have been notarised by a notary public and then certified with an apostille are accepted for legal use in all the nations that have signed the Hague Convention (this is most western countries, including Israel, the USA, the UK, but not Canada nor Australia). In Israel the apostille is a sticker, stuck on the back of the notary’s certificate and signed at most Magistrates’ Courts by the chief clerk. This service is no longer free and one must pay 30 NIS in stamp duty for it. The apostille just authenticates the notary’s work.
There is a fixed tariff set by the Israel Ministry of Justice for notarial services (click here, sorry in Hebrew). For other services provided by a notary (including translations, drafting affidavits and getting that apostille) the fee is set by the notary and the client (do not go to a lawyer without reading my article on this).
Law in Israel
שאול דיוויס עו”ד