Notaries in Germany

What kind of legal expert is a German Notary and what does a German Notary do in general?

Approximately 8,000 legal practitioners work as Notaries in Germany. Unlike a Notary Public in common law countries (e.g. in the U.K. or in the U.S.), German Notaries act as impartial and independent holders of a public office. They are entrusted by law with public faith and play a key role in real estate law, the law of mortgages, corporate law as well as family and succession law. The Notary advises his clients and establishes contracts and deeds concerning economically and/or legally significant transactions such as real property purchases, M & A / corporate restructuring, setting up and executing of last wills or setting up of marriage and divorce contracts. Notaries Dr. Marius Kohler and Hans-Jürgen Grünhage also act as administrators of last wills or – due to our impartiality imposed by law – as mediators in all kinds of legal disputes.

Apart from recording contracts / deeds in said areas of law or advising on legal transactions, the Notary is also responsible for the authentication of signatures and execution of certified copies of documents.

A legal “one-stop-shop”

As regards the scope of our legal servicing, Notaries Dr. Marius Kohler and Hans-Jürgen Grünhage act pretty much like a legal “one-stop-shop”: We comprehensively provide pre-contractual legal advise in order to enable our client to better decide on what exactly he/she needs, then set up the contract/deed tailor-made to the client’s needs, authenticate the transaction by way of officially recording the deed and, finally, take care of the entire legal winding-up and completion of the transaction (e.g. applications for registration in the land register and commercial register, communication with authorities, supply of permits etc.).

Independent and impartial legal advisers

In doing so, we Notaries act as “neutral lawyers for the situation”, i.e. as independent, impartial and objective advisers to all parties to a transaction. We examine the intentions of the parties, draft the contracts and instruments necessary to carry out the intended transaction and ensure that the contractual provisions are in full compliance with the law. Civil law Notaries also verify that the parties have full (mental and legal) capacity to enter into the intended agreement and that they have fully understood the legal implications of their commitment. Otherwise, the civil law Notary is required by law to refuse his participation.

The idea underlying this legal system is to establish a preventive legal control in order to avoid costly and time-consuming litigation about the validity and the meaning of contractual provisions in the aftermath of a transaction.

The authentic instrument: the Notaries’ legal “product”

By law, authentic instruments – the result of our legal servicing – are vested with an increased value of evidence and with so-called immediate enforceability. This means that an authentic instrument establishes full proof of the fact that the persons mentioned in the heading of the document have accepted the commitments undertaken therein with the content stated therein. Furthermore, the debtor of a claim for money can declare in an authentic instrument a so-called “submission to immediate enforcement into his assets”. In this case, the creditor can seize and exploit the assets of the debtor without having to file a lawsuit. In fact, the authentic instrument established by a Notary is comparable to an enforceable court judgment. Notarized contracts/deeds thus also serve to significantly save time and money in the event it comes to a legal dispute between parties to a contract.

Notaries as forerunners on the way to “E-Business” and electronic transactions

German Notaries play a leading role in electronic legal transactions. Based on a sophisticated cryptographic technique developed by the Notaries themselves, we Notaries nowadays communicate with all commercial registers in Germany only electronically thus enabling the swift winding-up of commercial transactions without detracting from client’s demands on secure, confidential communication of information. A Notary’s qualified electronic signature is by law vested with the same legal effect and public faith as is our traditional personal signature with our notarial seal.

Transparent and reasonable fees

Only the statutory fees and expenses – known beforehand based on transparent fee regulations – are applicable for our legal services – not more and not less. Regular business examinations carried out by the President of the competent Regional Court (Landgericht) also cover the proper charging of fees. The notarial scale of fees is based on the object value of the transaction. This has the advantage that all our services are included in the authentication fees, including all pre-transaction counselling and drafts – regardless of the difficulty or complexity of the subject matter as well as the effort or the number of appointments for counselling.

International and networked

Being located in Hamburg, Notaries Dr. Marius Kohler and Hans-Jürgen Grünhage are well aware of our city as one of Germany’s leading commercial cities with an ancient trading history of doing cross-border business. We therefore offer counselling and authentication not only in purely domestic constellations, but also in cross-border cases (e.g. cross-border M & A, involvement of foreign nationalities or foreign residence, location of property abroad etc.).

At our client’s request, legal counselling as well as the recording of deeds and contracts is done by us in English as well as in French and Swedish. Moreover, due to Dr. Kohler’s previous job as director of the Federal Chamber of German Notaries in Brussels, we are also well connected abroad and, as a case may require, can call in legal experts of other countries and / or jurisdictions.