Saudi Arabia recently approved a documentation law aimed at streamlining official legal procedures and ensuring individual rights are protected.
The most prominent features of the new legislation involve the transfer of some of the courts’ jurisdiction to notaries.
It authorizes notaries to handle documents related to divorce, conciliation, marriage contracts in cases of an alliance with a non-Saudi, custody, alimony or parental visits, establishment of waqf and will, division of joint funds including undisputed real estate, endowment share, and compensation money.
Under the rules, notaries have also been authorized to provide services for people with reading difficulties, including offering to guide them through social cases, certify testimonies of witnesses, and finalize real estate deeds and other legal instruments.
The powers being given to notaries are designed to speed up legal processes and improve their transparency.
The law has also assigned notaries to document powers of attorney and their cancellation, mortgage and its redemption and amendments to companies’ articles of association, annexes, decisions of shareholders, records of the general assemblies of companies, actions and contracts on trademarks, patents, copyrights, contracts for movable money, approval of physical and affirmative guarantees, and the receiving and assigning of financial sums and movables.
A decision by the Saudi Council of Ministers will see notaries given more powers in the future.
To save court time, documents issued in accordance with the provisions of the new law will have the power of proof and should be considered a basis for commitment, meaning the content of such legal papers will be valid before the courts without additional evidence and may not be challenged.
Notaries themselves will be required to meet specific conditions. They will need to be Saudi nationals of good conduct with no criminal record, be medically fit, and hold a university degree in Shariah or law from one of the Kingdom’s colleges (or equivalent) with a good general grade.
They will also have to pass a written exam prepared by the documentation authority, attend a specialized training course in documentation, and must practice only the legal profession.
In addition, the law includes rules surrounding conflicts of interest and fees related to legal procedures and services will be regularly monitored.
• Dimah Talal Alsharif is a Saudi legal consultant, head of the health law department at the law firm of Majed Garoub and a member of the International Association of Lawyers. Twitter: @dimah_alsharif
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