The civil law notary in Belgium
One of the main tasks of a Belgian notary, as laid down by law, is to advise citizens who wish to conclude agreements in important areas of their lives, and give authenticity to those agreements. The Belgian notary is a civil law notary, meaning he or she informs and advises clients about their rights and duties, and the legal, financial and tax-related consequences of their commitment. For some of these agreements, the notary’s involvement is obligatory as he guarantees their lawfulness and so provides legal certainty to the parties.
The civil law notary’s remit covers three main areas of law in Belgium: real estate law, family law and business law. The notary often intervenes in these three areas because the law requires certain types of agreements to be established in a special written form. Such written documents are called “authentic acts”. The notary makes inquiries among the different administrations to obtain all the necessary information before establishing the act, and makes sure the act cannot be challenged, regarding either its content or its form. The notary also ensures the follow-up, such as registration in the public registers and payment of taxes.
The Belgian notary is independent. To safeguard that independence, the notary is subject to a fixed scale of fees for most activities, determined by law, from which he cannot deviate. The notary must also remain impartial: he informs and advises all parties to the act, and does not privilege one above the other. Even if appointed by only one of the parties, the notary must remain completely neutral. Furthermore, the notary is bound by professional secrecy; notaries may not reveal to third parties what was confided to them.