Notary Services in Switzerland
Notary Services in SwitzerlandUpdated on Friday 26th March 2021
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Many foreign citizens and investors who come to Switzerland will need specialized assistance when completing various actions. Some of them need to rely on a notary in Switzerland who can authenticate various documents.
There are various services that can be provided by a notary public in Switzerland, which is why it good to request them before arriving in the country.
Below, our lawyers in Switzerland explain the main services provided by public notaries in this country. Also, you can rely on us for various legal services.
Legal requirements applicable to notaries in Switzerland
A notary public in Switzerland can assist with the authentication or certification of various documents, which is the main service provided by such a representative of the law. Other services that can be provided by a notary are acting as a witness when preparing various papers or even the person who will prepare the respective documents.
Swiss notaries fall under the scope of the Civil Code at a national level, however, they are appointed at cantonal levels. There are three systems applicable at the level of cantons in Switzerland, and each canton uses its own.
The following systems apply to public notaries in Switzerland:
- the self-employed one which is available in cantons such as Bern, Geneva and Neuchâtel;
- the stat-employed one which applies to notaries in cantons such as Zurich and Schaffhausen;
- the hybrid system which implies both self and state-employed notaries in cantons like Basel-Land, St. Gallen and Zug.
For each type of system, different requirements apply when it comes to being appointed as a notary in Switzerland.
When it comes to the services provided by a notary public in Switzerland, these will be recognized everywhere in the country, no matter the cantonal system used.
Our law firm in Switzerland can assist foreign citizens and investors with various services in most cantons.
Public notaries in Switzerland
In order to become a notary in Switzerland, one must attend a special course followed by an examination. Each Swiss canton has its own regulations and regulatory body that supervises public notaries. The Swiss Notaries Association and the Federation of Notaries are the national regulatory bodies when it comes to the supervision of public notaries.
Even if the power of authentication is given to a Swiss notary by the cantonal authority, a certified document will be recognized in all other cantons. When it comes to Swiss real estate rights, all documents must be authenticated within the canton where the property is situated. Each canton has its own notarial system, as follows:
- self-employed notaries are accredited in Bern, Aargau, Basel-Stadt, Fribourg, Neuchâtel, Ticino, Uri, Vaud, Geneva, Jura and Valais;
- Zurich, Appenzell Ausserrhoden, Rhoden, Thurgau and Schaffhausen have state-employed notaries;
- Appenzell Inner Rhoden, Basel-Land, Grisons, Glarus, Lucerne, Nidwalden, St. Gallen, Obwalden, Solothurn, Schwyz and Zug allow both self-employed and state-employed notaries to perform their activities;
- notaries in Switzerland can provide a wide range of services to both natural persons and legal entities.
Self-employed and state-employed notaries in Switzerland
Self-employed notaries in Switzerland are required to have a legal education. In certain cantons, Swiss notaries are required to complete a course with a Master’s of Law and an additional 2-year training, then undergo a complex examination. State-employed notaries in Switzerland are not required to have a degree. Both types of Swiss notaries have power of authentication. For a complete range of legal services on this matter you can rely on our lawyers in Switzerland.
Requirements to become a notary in Switzerland
In most cases, a notary public in Switzerland is an officer of the law, however, in certain cantons, the notary must also have a Master’s Degree in order to be allowed to complete his/her profession. In others, traineeship with a notary office is required. These requirements usually apply to self-employed notaries.
In the case of state-employed notaries in Switzerland, the Master’s Degree is not necessary, as these usually come from the legal public system and have experience in this field.
An exception is made in Swiss cantons using the hybrid system and in which in case of real estate property rights, only an administrative office made of public notaries can handle such matters. Self-employed notaries can handle the authentication of other documents.
If you want to use the services of a notary in Switzerland and don’t know how to choose, you can rely on the advice of our lawyers.
What are the main notary services available in Switzerland?
Notarial documents are internationally recognized records prepared and executed by notaries and authenticated with a signature and an official seal. Amongst the numerous types of notarial services available in Switzerland, we mention the following services, which can be requested by both Swiss citizens and foreign persons:
- attestation and certification of documents, incorporation documents of companies and foundations, winding-up documents;
- preparation and certification of powers of attorney, wills, contracts with Swiss companies;
- certification of copy documents, marriage contracts, inheritance contracts and other legal documents related to the family legislation in Switzerland;
- drafting and authentication of documents related to the sale or purchase of real estate in Switzerland;
- authentication of signatures, affidavits, transfer of assets, documents related to mergers and acquisitions in Switzerland.
Notary services for entrepreneurs in Switzerland
Foreign and local entrepreneurs will usually use the services of public notaries in Switzerland when entering various commercial contracts and when setting up companies.
An important aspect to consider when working with a Swiss notary is that the choice must be made in accordance with the canton the investor will do business in. As mentioned above, each Swiss canton has its own local regulations when it comes to the appointment of notary officers who can provide various services to the public.
This is also one of the main reasons to first verify the regulations of every canton when starting a business.
A public notary can help with the drafting and authentication of company documents, such as Memorandum and Articles of Association of corporate business forms. The Swiss notary will also be in charge of drafting partnership agreements, where this is the preferred legal entity used by entrepreneurs.
Amendments related to the Articles of Association of a company also need to be certified by a notary, as well as the drafting of documents related to mergers and acquisitions.
One of the most important changes that can be brought to a Swiss company’s statutory documents refers to the increase of decrease of the capital. These must be filed with the Trade Register which will not accept them if they are not authenticated by a public notary.
These must contain specific elements and a public notary in collaboration with a Swiss lawyer can provide the necessary assistance when drafting such papers.
Also, shareholders agreements can be certified by public notaries where the members in a company decide for one.
Those who decide to operate under other business form will also need the services of a public notary. Franchise agreements and joint venture contracts can be drafted by our law firm in Switzerland followed by the authentication of a local notary.
Our lawyers in Switzerland can offer detailed information on the main public notaries that can be obtained in various cantons.
The creation of foundations and associations, as well as that of trusts, can also be completed with the help of a public notary in Switzerland who must certify the document.
The notary public is essential in the Swiss business environment, however, the local legislation must be respected when using such services.
Tailored notary services for natural persons in Switzerland
Public notaries fall under the regulations of the Civil Law and part of their services cover natural persons who can use their services in matters like:
- the preparation of marriage contract (pre-nuptial agreements),
- the drafting of almost every type of will acknowledged by the Swiss law,
- rental and lease contracts related to the use of real estate property,
- real estate pre-sale and sale agreements.
Also, in the case of foreign citizens, certified copies of their identification papers are required in many situations.
When preparing a will, it is important to note that the person can draft it him/herself in the presence of two witnesses and then have it authenticated by a Swiss notary.
These services can also be offered by lawyers in Switzerland in certain cantons, and for tailored guidance, we recommend you discuss with our attorneys.
How to choose a notary in Switzerland
In most cases, the notary is chosen based on recommendations, however, this is more difficult when it comes to foreign citizens and entrepreneurs coming to Switzerland for the first time. In their case, the best option is to choose a public notary from one of the regulatory bodies of this profession, the Notaries Association being one of them.
Also, depending on the Swiss canton the person is in, one can choose between self-employed and state notaries.
If you decide to work with our Swiss law firm, we can help in various matters, including in recommending you a public notary where the respective service cannot be provided by us.
Documents that can be authenticated by a notary public in Switzerland
The following documents can be certified by a notary in Switzerland:
- all types of contracts concluded under the Swiss Civil Code, including those signed by natural persons and companies;
- partnership deeds which must be certified by local public notaries before the partnership is registered;
- testaments which must be authenticated by a notary public in Switzerland in order to be valid;
- pre-sale and sale-purchase agreements related to real estate property located in Switzerland;
- prenuptial contracts must also be authenticated where the spouses want to enter such agreements.
In certain cases, such as testaments, the Swiss notary can also act as a witness upon the creation of the document.
Various documents required for the creation of companies must also be certified by a notary public in Switzerland. Among these are:
- the company’s Memorandum and Articles of Association;
- merger and acquisition contracts;
- documents related to the transfer of shares;
- documents required upon the liquidation of companies.
Our Swiss lawyers can also help you set up a business in this country and can prepare various documents related to registration with the Companies Registrar. If you have any questions about notary services in Switzerland, you can rely on us.
Marital property regime in Switzerland
Both local and foreign persons who are married in Switzerland are entitled to enter a marital agreement in this country and, in the case of foreigners, they can choose the property regime stipulated by the country of origin, or by the one available in Switzerland. Since there are numerous options in this sense, it is advisable to receive legal assistance from our team of Swiss lawyers, who can advise on the most suitable option.
It is important to know that if foreigners living in Switzerland as married persons have not entered a marital agreement (which can be concluded at a public notary in this country), they will become subjects to the Swiss national legislation on the matter, which stipulates the rights and obligations regarding individual property and acquired property.
How can one purchase a property in Switzerland?
When purchasing a property in Switzerland, it is compulsory to request the services of a public notary located in the canton where the property is registered. The sale-purchase contract is considered valid under the Swiss legislation only in the situation in which a notary certified the respective document, which has to be signed by the seller, the buyer and notary.
After signing the respective document, the notary is the entity who will notify the relevant authorities (in this case, the Land Register) on the change of ownership and only after this procedure is completed, the person can be considered the new owner of the Swiss property.
The procedure that is completed through a public notary will incur a fee, which depends on the canton in which the transaction is concluded and it is necessary to know that both the seller and the purchaser are required to participate in the payment of the notary fee.
Why invest in Switzerland
Switzerland is a very appealing investment destination, as the following information shows it:
- in 2019, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflow in Switzerland was 21,7 billion USD;
- in the same year, the Swiss FDI stock stood at 1,3 trillion USD;
- Switzerland ranked 13th in the Foreign Direct Investment Confidence Index issued by AT Kearney;
- Switzerland ranked 36th in the 2020 Doing Business Report issued by the World Bank.
We also invite you to watch our video below:
FAQ on notary services in Switzerland
- Can I choose any public notary I want when I come to Switzerland?
Yes, you can choose any notary you want as long as he/she is registered in the canton you need to complete your activities in.
- Is there any difference between the notaries presented in this article?
From a services point of view, there are no differences between the types of notaries in our article, each of them being qualified to offer the same services.
- Are there any differences between the prices of the notary services?
Notaries operate under specific fees which can differ from canton to canton.
- Does it take long for a notary to prepare certified documents?
Depending on the workload of the chosen notary, it should not take more than one day to obtain the necessary documents.
You can contact our law firm in Switzerland for complete information related to notarial services available in each canton; our attorneys can provide more details on the documents that have to be prepared when requesting a specific notarial service in this country and can verify if the respective documents are completed following the legislation on the matter.