Authentic or public form acts are the defining feature of civil law notaries. The authentic act is one that has been drawn up by a competent public officer who is authorised under the law to give authenticity to the act and benefit from the credibility and value of acts of the State. Authentic form acts are comprised of a single narrative instrument written by a notary in the first person and sets out a legal obligation or records a fact or thing. In civil law jurisdictions, such notarial instruments are considered ‘public’ documents and as such are valid and regular, self-authenticating, self-executing, provide probative value as to their contents, are considered public documents and have a fixed, unalterable effective date.
Authentic acts provide full probative value within the jurisdiction in which the notary has licence to practice. It should be noted however, that an authentic act does not have probative value in relation to facts which the parties have declared to the notary without providing evidence and that such parts of the instrument are rebuttable by ordinary means of proof.
Authentic form acts are also given special evidentiary status in which they automatically evidence the facts or statements recorded. While it is possible to challenge the authenticity of such an act, this is not common and involves a lengthy and complex judicial procedure.
Another feature of an authentic form act is that it has executory force, in that an obligation or acknowledgment appearing in an authentic form instrument is enforceable in the same way as a judgement of the court.
The authentic form act is integral to the legal systems of civil law jurisdiction countries. As such, there are precise rules and regulations that govern how civil law notaries conduct their practice and provide services. If these rules and regulations are not observed, it can render the authentic form act null and void. Typically, a civil law notary must read the instrument to the parties, or their legal representatives, explain the applicable law to them and answer any questions that are asked of them in relation to the instrument.