If you live in Croatia, you’ve probably already visited a notary public at least once, likely to have your rental contract notarized.
The notary public is a person who compiles and verifies private and public documents, attends the meetings of management boards, and composes contracts. Their job is to authenticate and legalize documents.
In this article, we cover:
- Who is a notary public in Croatia
- Types of notarial documents in Croatia
- Why you may need a notary public in Croatia
- How to become a notary public
- When you need a court interpreter
- How to find a notary public
The facts are these…
A notary public is called “javni bilježnik” in Croatian. They:
- Officially compile and issue public documents on legal affairs, statements, and facts on which rights are based
- Officially certify private documents
- Receive and safe-keep documents, money, and valuables for their delivery to other persons or competent authorities
- Performs procedures prescribed by law, court orders, or other public bodies.
To perform their job, a notary public must meet the following requirements:
- Completed the Faculty of Law (pravni fakultet)
- Passed the bar (pravosudni) and notary (javnobilježnički) exam
- Have the necessary experience
- Are persons of public trust
- Are independent and autonomous public service providers
- Are an impartial trustee of the parties
A notary public is not a lawyer and does not represent clients or parties. They are expert commissioners of all parties whose job is to arrange their relationship to avoid long and costly disputes and guarantee legal certainty.
They must inform parties of the facts and rights. They must not refuse to take official action without a valid reason. All information that they learn in the performance of their service must remain a secret.
The structure, operation, and mode of operation of the notary public in Croatia are defined by the Notary Public Act (Zakon o javnom bilježništvu). It is available here.
A notary public must be a Croatian national or a national of another EU Member State.
Notaries work in notary public services/administration offices. In addition to the notary public, there are other roles within a javni bilježnik office:
- Notary assessor (javnobilježnički prisjednik)
- Notary advisor (javnobilježnički savjetnik)
- Notary trainee (javnobilježnički vježbenik)
Notary assessors are law graduates who passed the bar and notary exams capable of performing all tasks for which a notary public is legally authorized.
Notary advisors are law graduates who passed the bar exam and continue to work in a notary public administration office after notary training. They can perform certain tasks instead of the notary public including:
- Preparation of draft documents
- Compiling inventory
- Voluntary auctions of movable property with the effect of a court auction
- Communication of statements
- Delivery and certification of documents entered in the register of certifications
Notary trainees are law graduates who can perform all tasks of notary public advisors, excluding certification of documents entered in the register of certifications.
There are 3 main types of notarial documents that can be issued by a notary public service in Croatia.
Notarial documents are:
- Notarial deed (javnobilježnički akt) – Documents on legal affairs and statements drawn up by notaries
- Notarial minute (javnobilježnički zapisnik) – Minutes of legal actions performed or attended by notaries
- Notarial certificate (javnobilježnička potvrda) – Certificates of facts witnessed by notaries.
Notarial documents are called “documents with force” (dokumenti sa snagom). This means that they have a force equal to the force of the state or some of the state’s bodies. Information written down in these documents is legally considered true.
There are numerous situations that will require visiting a notary public in Croatia. When visiting a notary public in Croatia, bring an ID card or passport with you. A notary public will use them to confirm your identity when performing official actions.
Below are some cases that require a notary public:
- Legal verification of signatures by a notary public, such as on a rental or property purchase contract
- Verification of an identification document, such as a driver’s license, passport, or national ID card
- Solemnization of mortgage contracts, last wills, and testament or lifelong support contracts
- Compiling a notarial deed of legal affairs and statements in which you participate
- Compiling minutes for legal action that must be attended by a notary public
- Compiling a certificate of facts that must be certified by a notary public
- Making a contract on the disposal of the property of minors
- Making a contract on the disposal of the property of persons deprived of legal capacity
- Making a gift contract without handing over the gifts in the immediate possession of the donor
- Legal affairs undertaken personally by those who cannot read, write, or hear
- Conducting probate proceedings
- Making an enforcement decision based on authentic documents
Verification of signatures
Legal verification of signatures on private documents is an often requested service by a notary public. By verification of a signature, a notary public confirms that a party personally signed or put handwriting on a document in their presence. They may also confirm that a party acknowledged a signature or handwriting on a document as their own.
With this service, a notary public does not examine the substantive validity of the document or whether the participants are authorized to perform the legal transaction.
For example, if you are signing a contract on the sale of the real estate, they won’t check whether a contract includes all required elements for registration to the land register or not. They will only confirm that you signed a contract in their presence.
Solemnization of documents
Solemnization called “solemnizacija” is a procedure of certifying private documents or contracts by a notary public. This is used in legal transactions that don’t require a form of a notarial deed.
Participants in these transactions can ask for certification of documents by a notary public. The notary public checks whether the document or a contract fits the prescribed form. They also explain the meaning, consequences, and legal effects of the transaction to its participants.
If a notary public legally verifies the signature on a contract, they only confirm that participants have personally signed the document or a contract. They don’t explain the content of the contract to participants. In solemnization, they must check and explain the content of the document or a contract to all participants.
Within solemnization, a notary public must also examine whether parties are capable and authorized to conclude the contract and whether they have a true and serious will. A notary public will make written statements of parties, read them to all parties and ask them questions to make sure that the written content corresponds to the will of the parties.
Once documents are certified, they have a force of a notarial deed and they become enforceable documents.
Solemnization is used for housing loans and lifelong support contracts. For almost all other types of loans, verification of the signatures on the contract will be sufficient. [Read: How credit works in Croatia]
The process of becoming a notary public in Croatia is not easy. You have to climb many stairs before you can work legally. This position brings a lot of responsibility, so you have to be an expert.
The steps are:
#1 Finish the integrated undergraduate and graduate study of law
#2 Pass the bar and notary exam
#3 Gain 5 years of work experience
#4 Work as a notary public
A notary public is employed within the service called “javnobilježnička služba”. They work in an office according to the predetermined working hours or an agreement with a party.
They are named by a Minister according to the decision of the judiciary on the basis of the competition. If more than one candidate competes for a position, results of the bar and notary exam, their previous experience in legal work, and results they already achieved in their work are considered.
A court interpreter called “sudski tumač” is a certified translator for the provision of internationally valid translation services, who sometimes work hand in hand with notaries public.
By signing and stamping translated documents, they confirm that the translation is correct and accept legal responsibility for possible errors.
You need a court interpreter to translate your apostilled/legalized documents into Croatian. For example, when applying for Croatian citizenship abroad at the Croatian embassy or consulate, you’ll need to provide a notarized copy of your passport. It serves as a confirmation that a passport is yours and validates your signature. After the translation, your passport will be notarized as well. [Read: Difference between apostille and legalization]
If applying for citizenship or residence for the first time, you will need to provide a legalized background check. This also must have an official translation. [Read: How to prepare your foreign documents for use in Croatia]
There is an additional reason you may need a court interpreter. For specific types of services, all non-Croatian citizens are required to have a court interpreter at the notary public with them who can translate the documents in real-time.
This is required for all solemnization procedures and also when dealing with company incorporation. This is to ensure that you understand everything in the contracts and formation documents. It is important to keep this in mind, as it is an additional cost on top of the notary fees.
Court interpreters can act independently in their own companies or work in translation or other related companies. One of the requirements you must meet to become a court interpreter is to have Croatian nationality. [Read: How to apply for Croatian citizenship (hrvatsko državljanstvo)]
Court interpreters are named by the courts of the Republic of Croatia. People also call them:
- Certified translators (ovlašteni prevoditelji)
- Court translators (sudski prevoditelji)
- Licensed translators (licencirani prevoditelji)
Croatia has the most court interpreters for the English language.
Rules on becoming a court interpreter in Croatia are defined by the Rulebook on permanent court interpreters (Pravilnik o stalnim sudskim tumačima). It is available here.
A list of all notary public administration offices in Croatia can be found here.
You can search them by:
- Notary public’s name and surname
- Working hours
- Day of the week
A list of all court interpreters in Croatia is available here.
You can also just do a web search for “javni bilježnik” to find the closest one to you. There are many of them everywhere. For some types of services, you may need to schedule an appointment in advance.
Have you ever visited a notary public? What did you need?
See other similar posts
- Apostille versus full legalization of government documents
- Background checks for third-country nationals
- How to prepare foreign documents for use in Croatia
- Which documents to bring to Croatia (if you plan to live here)
Please note: All information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal advice in any form. For legal advice, you must consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. We can recommend one if you contact us.