Views/ Serbia: Law on notary public comes into effect
Milan LazićAdvokat / Senior Partnermilan.lazic@karanovicpartners.com

On 17 May 2011 the National Assembly adopted the Law on Notary Public ("the Law"), which came into effect on 1 September 2014.

The new Law introduces the Notary Public into the Serbian legal system, which should help to relieve the judiciary, improve its efficiency, and improve legal security. A Notary Public is an independent and autonomous legal expert, who performs a service of public trust. The Law brings some significant changes regarding the competence for performing certain services, and the Notary Public will be solely competent for drafting specific contracts as of 1 September 2014.

The most important legal services which will be performed by the Notary Public can be classified into three groups: preparation of documents, conducting legal proceedings as a trustee of the court and deposit operations.

Document drafting is the essence of Notary Public services, and a Notary Public is authorised to prepare four types of documents: Notary Public records, Notary Public minutes, Notary Public certificates and Notary Public verifications.

Notary Public record is a document referring to contracts and other legal acts that parties conclude or take before a notary public. As one of the major novelties, the Law provides a mandatory form of a notary public record for the following legal matters and statements:

  • contracts on property relations between spouses,
  • contracts on property relations between non-marital partners,
  • agreements on the division of the joint property of spouses or non-marital partners,
  • agreements on legal support and alimentation, in accordance with the law,
  • contracts regarding real estate,
  • agreements on the transfer and distribution of property during life;
  • contracts on life support,
  • promise of a gift, and
  • contracts on donation in the case of death

If these documents are not prepared by a notary public, they will not be legally valid.

Different types of legally relevant statements may be concluded in the form of public notary record, such as:

  • contracts on disposing of movable property or rights,
  • testaments,
  • hereditary statements, such as statements for exclusion from inheritance and statements for deprivation from inheritance, or a statement that a gift given to a legal successor will not be considered as part of the his legally required inheritance,
  • acknowledgment of paternity and a statement on compliance with the acknowledged fatherhood; or
  • a statement on consent to the process of assisted impregnation.

It is important to note that a notary public record is an enforceable deed, if it contains a certain obligation on a party, and if it contains an explicit statement of the obliged party that enforcement may be carried out on the basis of that document after the due date. Private documents certified by a public notary may also represent an enforceable deed, under the same conditions. Also, based on a notary public record, the registration procedure before the registers may be directly implemented, if the obliged party explicitly agrees.

Notary Public minutes is a document about legal and other actions that are performed or attended by notaries. The Law introduces a new rule, that the meeting minutes from the founding assembly and other assemblies of joint stock companies with more than 100 shareholders, as well as an other body within the joint-stock company, when such body, in accordance with Company Law and the general act of that company, decides on matters within the competence of the general shareholders' assembly, must be written in the form of notary public minutes, in order to be legally valid.

Other significant actions that can now be conducted by a notary public (in addition to the court or other authority determined by law) in the form of notary public minutes are:

  • examination of witnesses whose testimony is needed or will be needed in non-adversarial or administrative proceedings;
  • drafting the minutes on inventory and evaluation of inheritance estate, based on prior approval of the inheritance court;
  • conclusion of settlement before initiation of litigation, non-adversarial or administrative proceedings, in accordance with the law governing civil, non-adversarial, enforcement and general administrative procedure, that act as a court settlement or settlement concluded before the administrative authority. 

Notary Public confirmation are certificates of the facts that were witnessed by the notary public, which can be used for the realisation of rights before national and foreign authorities, such as confirmation that a certain person is alive, proof of submission of a document for inspection, or confirmation of a protest of a promissory note or a check, as well as other confirmations determined by law.

Notary Public verification is the notarial act by which the authenticity of certain documents is confirmed. There are several different types of verification:

  • verification of signatures on a non-public document (legalisation),
  • verification of non-public documents (solemnisation),
  • verification of copies of documents,
  • verification of translations, and
  • verification of a decision of a legal entity's management. 

Additionally, there is now a possibility for the courts to entrust a notary public with certain procedures, such as, inheritance proceedings. It is important to point out that the court may not delegate activities for which the jurisdiction of the court exists under the law governing civil proceedings, except activities of securing evidence and service of documents to a notary public. In addition, the court may not delegate activities for which the jurisdiction of the court exists under the law governing the procedure for enforcement and security to a notary public.

Finally, a notary public can perform deposit operations such as depositing money by the parties for keeping, depositing securities, documents, works of art and other valuables, for which the parties will receive a notary public confirmation of deposit.

The Minister of Justice on 1 August 2014, appointed the first 94 Notary publics for the area of 37 basic courts. Notaries were still not appointed for the municipality of Gornji Milanovac, Vrbas, Aranđelovac, Kikinda and Požega. A list of all appointed notaries can be found here. A party can also make a document with a notary office which is not at the party's residence area, with the exception for those activities related to disposing of immovable property - in this case, it is necessary to consult a notary public in the jurisdiction where the real estate is located.

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