Frequently Asked Questions...
1. What is the difference between a lawyer and a notary public?
In Alberta, a lawyer is automatically a notary public, but a notary public is not necessarily a lawyer. In Alberta, there are very few non-lawyer notaries. In other provinces, the situation may be different. In BC, for example, notaries are a type of legal professional who are limited in the services they can provide. A BC notary may draft a will for a client, or represent a client on a real estate purchase, but they won't appear as someone's representative in court. Likewise, in Quebec, there is a separate legal profession known as notaires. In the U.S., a notary is similar to a commissioner for oaths in Alberta, as there are few restrictions on becoming a notary there.
As mentioned earlier, in Alberta, almost all notaries are lawyers, and all lawyers are notaries. A notary public typically acts as a professional witness to sworn written statements, such as affidavit and statutory declarations, and certain other written documents. A notary public may also certify copies of documents.
2. What is the difference between a notary public and a commissioner for oaths?
In Alberta, a notary public is automatically a commissioner for oaths, but a commissioner for oaths isn't necessarily a notary public. While most notaries are lawyer, in Alberta, a commissioner for oaths is often someone like a legal assistant or an admin person in an office. Someone who is not a notary who wants to become a commissioner for oaths must apply to the Alberta Government and do an "exam" with a lawyer to ensure that they know what there responsibilities are. A commissioner for oaths acts as a professional witness for certain sworn documents, such as affidavits and statutory declarations, that are to be used in Alberta. If your document is to be used outside of Alberta, you will likely need a notary public, rather than someone who is only a commissioner for oaths, as the commissioner for oaths designation is typically only recognized in the province where the person was appointed.
3. Can you guarantee a positive outcome on a lawsuit, an application, or a transaction?
Unfortunately, a lawyer cannot guarantee a particular outcome. There are too many variables in lawsuits and other types of applications. Another party may have better evidence or be considered more credible by a judge. For that matter, a judge may make a mistake. In a real estate or commercial transaction, the other party may walk away from a deal, whether or not in breach of contract. Even in preparing a will, we cannot guarantee that it will never be challenged, say, by a disgruntled family member. While some applications or transactions have extremely high likelihoods of success, the ultimate outcome of most legal work is beyond a lawyer's control.
What we can do is promise to do our best and to perform our duties to the standard of competent professionals.
4. Will you agree to act as an executor for a client?
No. Some law firms may provide that service, but we do not. If you are looking at having a professional administer a trust or an estate, you may wish to see if your financial institution offers that type of service. In Canada, most of the major banks can provide that type of service for a fee. If you are considering that option, you should check with your financial institution in advance before appointing it as an executor on your will.
Weninger Zhang does, however, offer legal services to executors.
5. Do you take walk-ins?
We prefer not to. As a full-service firm with a brisk practice, we are constantly on the go. Our lawyers may be in court, meeting with other clients, taking further training, or be out sick with the flu. As a courtesy, we would ask that you contact us in advance to book an appointment. While we strive to be as accommodating as possible, we are still selective about our clients. If a person shows up unannounced, or is unable to observe certain professional boundaries, that person may find us unwilling to assist them going forward.