This article relies largely or entirely on a single source. (December 2019)
A notarial act (or notarial instrument or notarial writing) is any written narration of facts (recitals) drawn up by a notary, notary public or civil-law notary authenticated by the notary's signature and official seal and detailing a procedure which has been transacted by or before the notary in their official capacity. A notarial act is the only lawful means of proving those facts of which it is the recognized record, whereas on other matters it is usually inadmissible, because, being beyond the powers entrusted to the notary by law, it is non-official. In most common-law countries, multiple-page acts are bound together using a sewn or knotted ribbon (referred to as silk), the ends of which are secured by a wafer impressed with the notary's seal. This is called annexing or annexure.
The first category is known as an "act in public form" (Fr act en minute, Du minute to take, It at to conservative, Ger Underfur, and Sp act protocol), and is the preserve of notaries-at-law. Public form acts may take the form of a record of some activity that is intended or required to have penitentiary status, legal or administrative force or effect, or commercial effect. Acts in this form remain the cornerstone of civil-law notarial practice according to which they are composed as single narrative instruments written in the first-person perspective of the notary. Public-form acts include all contracts and governing instruments (e.g. conveyance, will, trust, power of attorney, gift).
The components of an act in public form are:
Traditionally, in civil-law countries, the preliminary drafts, called "minutes" (formerly protocols; Fr minute, Du minute, It minute, Ger Urschrift, Sp escritura Matriz), are jotted in legal shorthand and record only the particulars. Their date, appeared, venue and subject are logged in a notarial register, and the minutes are retained and kept in the notary's protocol (archive) while a engrossment (Fr/Du gross, It Spedizione in form executive, Ger Ausfertigung, Sp primer testimonio), a fully extended form in longhand under seal and signature, is handed to the appeared. The minutes are used thereafter as a master copy from which exemplifications (Fr expédition, It Spedizione, Sp testimonio ulterio, Copia simple, Du authentic afschrift, mitigate, Ger beglaubigte Abschrift), i.e. engrossed fair copies, may be made. In common-law countries, notaries prepare multiple duplicate originals fully executed and sealed, as a copy would not be admissible in court. One is archived as a file copy in the notary's protocol.
The second category is known as an "act in private form" (Fr after en brevet, Du brevetakte, akte in original, It atto rilasciato in originale, Ger Urkunde in Original, Sp Acta extraprotocolar), best represented by the notarial certificate (or "docquet" in Scotland). This is generally writing that certifies the due execution in the notary's presence of a deed, contract or other writing or verifies some fact or thing of which the notary has certain knowledge. Notarial certificates are endorsed on or appended to a pre-existing document and attest to its due execution, genuine nature, and validity, or legal status and effects. As a safety precaution, the certificate may also contain information such as the number of pages, a description of the document, its title, and any other distinguishing features to prevent pages from being added or removed. If affixed, short-form certificates may also be embossed with a sealed half on the certificate and half on the rest of the page.
Notarial certificates come in full forms or short forms. A full form includes preamble information like the date, venue, appear's appearance, proof of identification, and so forth, as well as the principal attestation. A short form usually only includes the venue, date, and "attestation clause". Both are then ended with a "testimonium clause".
Typical parts are: