What is an “Apostille” or “Authentication?”

You have relatives in Greece, but need them to sign a deed in a form recordable with the New York State courts. How, in today’s age, where people move, fly and otherwise re-locate, do we get them to sign a deed without coming back to Rockland County?

How do we prove that a document signed in Russia is authentic and should be given the full faith and credit of our local laws in Dutchess County? What if your wife died in England, but you need to sign a document for American Surrogate court. All of these questions are becoming increasingly common, and increasingly easy to solve.

In October 1981, the United States joined as a signatory to the 1961 Hague Convention. For most of us, that means that we can now follow the “simplified certification” process whereby public documents (including notarized deeds) will be universally admissible in America and abroad. For a list of signatories to the Convention go here.

Countries that recognize the Convention agree to recognize public documents issued by other signatory countries if those public documents are authenticated by the attachment of an internationally recognized form of authentication known as an “apostille.” The function of the apostille is to certify that the signature on the document is authentic; identify the title or capacity in which that person signed; and the identity of any stamp or seal affixed to the document.

When the document is used in a foreign country, it may be necessary to authenticate the notarization or certification. Foreign countries often require documents to be authenticated before the documents will be accepted in the foreign jurisdiction. Be sure you follow those guidelines, or your document may not be acceptable.

An “authentication” certifies that the signature and the position of the official who has executed, issued or certified a copy of a document.

In New York, an apostille takes the form of a one page document issued by the New York State Secretary of State and embossed with the Great Seal of the State of New York, and includes the facsimile signature of the individual issuing the certificate. You may need to go to the nearest American Consulate office to finalize the process.

Speak to a New York Real Estate Attorney.

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