Notaries in Turkey

Notaries play an important role within the Turkish legal system. This will be of no surprise if you come from a mainland European country but quite surprising if you're used only to systems in places such as the US and the UK: the so-called Anglo-Saxon legal tradition.

What is a Notary in Turkey?

In Turkey, as in most European countries, the profession of Notary is an independent profession. It is related to but independent of the general profession of lawyer.

Notaries are in the odd position of being independent professionals, running their own business and generating their income from the fees they earn but, at the same time, being appointed by the State and an essential part of the State administrative system.

They start their training by taking a law degree and then continue, not by going into practice as a lawyer, but by applying to be a Notary and then taking the specialist Notarial exam.

Thus, they are a far cry from the Notary in the US or some other countries, where the Notary may have no legal qualifications at all but exist only to witness the authenticity of signatures.

What work does a Notary do in Turkey?

Article 1 of the Notary Public law says that being a Notary Public is a public service. A Notary Public documents operations (for assuring security and preventing disagreements) and carries out other duties given by the law.

They perform a number of tasks including:

  • Producing ‘official’ copies of documents
  • Documenting vehicle sales
  • Preparing Wills
  • Preparing Powers of Attorney
  • Preparing declarations and undertakings
  • Preparing joint ventureagreements, especially in simpler cases
  • Preparing contractsfor the sale of land or buildings – but not advising the parties about the transaction
  • Producing certain company documents
  • Producing a whole range of contracts, Powers of Attorney and other documents.

Notaries are not engaged in dealing with court cases or in advising about criminal law or family law.

They are not there to advise the parties. Their role is to make sure that the appropriate procedures are followed when a document is produced and that the document contains all the information required by law.

How do you find a Notary in Turkey?

There is at least one Notary in most towns in Turkey, however small. You can approach a Notary directly or you may be introduced to a Notary by your lawyer, accountant or adviser.

Whichever way you make contact with a Notary, his duties to you remain the same.

What happens in a Turkish Notary’s office?

When you need to approach a Notary, there are various steps that will always be taken.

The first thing that will happen is that you will be asked to produce proof of your identity. In the case of a foreigner, identity is always proved by their passport. The Notary will usually take and retain a copy of your passport. This process of identification will normally be done by one of the Notary’s assistants (rather than by the Notary him or herself), who will then register your case. If you go to the Notary ten times for ten different things you will still have to go through this process every time and the office will make ten different registrations.

An assistant in the office will then usually establish your requirements. For example: if you want to make a Will, what do you want to do with your assets?

When you see the Notary’s assistant in this way – or even if you see the Notary himself – it is important to note that he will be establishing your wishes. He is not there to give you legal advice.

It is only in very rare cases that you will see the Notary himself at this stage. If you do see him, it is usually because the assistant has identified something unusual or difficult about your case.

Usually – though this varies a little from Notary to Notary – the assistant will then go through with you the documents that have been prepared to make sure that they are correct and properly reflect your wishes. They will then make any alterations necessary.

If you do not speak fluent Turkish, the assistant will – as required by law – arrange for an official translator to be present to translate the documents that have been prepared into your language and get your confirmation that you have understood them.

As the assistants often have the power to sign documents on behalf of the Notary, you may not – certainly in simple cases – see the Notary during the entire process! For those used to dealing with Notaries in other countries, such as France, this comes as a great surprise. Do not be worried. The system works surprisingly well.

The law requires the Notary (or the assistant authorised to sign the document) to read to you the document you are about to sign. This can often cause difficulties because, in the age of the word processor and very cautious lawyers, some of these documents can extend to many pages. Usually they hand the document over to you – if a translation is not required – before signing, for you to read it through. When you are ready to sign you will confirm that you have read and understood the document yourself, or that it has been translated to you.

One thing you will notice, whether you speak Turkish or not, is just how quickly someone can read a document aloud. If you think of the speed of the ‘terms & conditions’ at the end of a radio or TV ad and then double it, you’ll be about right!

Once the document has been read, the Notary or their assistant will ask you to sign it in their presence. Occasionally – for example, in the case of Wills – the law will require additional witnesses. If so, you will have been told to bring them with you or the Notary will provide them.

Once you have signed the document, if there are any taxes to pay or any expenses (such as the fees of the translator), you will be asked to pay them. You will also have to pay the notary’s fees. You will always be given a receipt.

Usually, payment will be required in cash. Banks know this and there is usually a nearby ATM. Take note that that no Notary in Turkey takes credit card payments. Nor do they take cheques.

Sometimes these fees and taxes can be substantial, well beyond the amount you can draw out at an ATM on a normal debit or credit card. Obtaining the funds can, therefore, require some advance planning – such as drawing them out from the ATM on several different cards or over a couple of days or withdrawing them from a bank.

What happens to the documents?

The Notary will take two hard, signed, copies of any documents and then return one original to you. In case of a Will, an original is sent to the Notaries’ headquarters, to be eventually sent to the ‘first instance’ court (the court where your case starts) upon your death.

He will then keep the other original documents that he has prepared, together with all the copies of your documents that he has taken, as part of his official records known as his ‘archive’.

He will prepare copies of any documents that need to be registered and they will go to the relevant registry.

He will also prepare a copy of the documents he prepared for you and, in the case of a sale, the other party.

He will prepare additional copies if you ask him to do so, but this will be at a modest additional cost.

How much are the Notary’s fees in Turkey?

It is almost impossible to give you any sensible guidance on this because they depend upon the type of document being prepared and how long it is. For example, the fee for preparing a Power of Attorney document in connection with transferring the ownership of a property will vary depending on the number of the words used and, if you sign a promissory agreement for purchase, the value of the property.

Who controls Turkish Notaries?

The Association of Notaries (Türkiye Noterler Birliği) regulates Notaries in Turkey in accordance with the Notary Law of 1972.

What happens if I have a complaint about a Notary in Turkey?

Your complaint should be made to the Association of Notaries, who will investigate it and give you a written response to it.

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