Interview with the President of Lithuanian Notariat Marius Stračkaitis
Mr. Marius Stračkaitis, a notary in Klaipeda, has been the President of the Lithuanian notaries since March 2008 and is currently serving his third term in the office. He has also been a member of various boards and working groups for the preparation of legal acts, including the Supervisory Committee of the Civil Code of the Republic of Lithuania, and is a co-author of numerous books about notarial law and history.
In December, 2016 the Lithuanian Notariat celebrated its 450th anniversary. Mr. Stračkaitis has been very kind to answer a few questions about the current situation of Notariat in Lithuania for the readers of Ad Notam, the Czech notarial magazine.
1) Mr. President, what are the main competences of notaries in your country? What type of notarial services are most appreciated and sought out by the Lithuanian citizens?
Answer: Laws of Lithuania require wide range of obligatory notarial deeds, therefore individuals and legal persons are frequent notarial clients by the requirement of law. The main competencies of notaries include attestation of transactions (including real estate transactions); dealing with cases of succession; making executive inscriptions upon notarized transactions from which monetary obligations arise, as well as on protested or non-protestable bills of exchange and cheques; making executive inscriptions on enforced recovery of the debt upon the mortgage (pledge) creditor's request; attestation to the compliance of incorporation documents of legal persons with the requirements of the laws.
2) How does the public find out about the new notarial services? Is there some form of public campaign in place?
Answer: According to the opinion polls commissioned by the Lithuanian Chamber of Notaries, the public is overwhelmingly supportive to notarial profession and most of the notarial deeds. Since 2005, when the first such opinion poll was commissioned, notaries had enjoyed the top position of public confidence among all legal professions. The Chamber has chosen to be conservative about the public campaigns and continuously works on day-to-day basis in establishing well-planned relations with media, providing information and answering to media requests on relevant legal issues.
3) Lithuanian Notariat is known for keeping up to speed with the world of the new technologies. Could you please explain what is exactly the e-Notaras system?
Answer: In March 2017, the Chamber of Notaries and a number of selected notarial offices have entered the test phase of the first stage of eNotaras system. We expect that after several months of testing all notaries will start using it. The system, created by the leading IT company iTree, will have three subsequent stages of implementation. The first one consists of implementing the online intranet system for all notarial offices, which provides online tools for notaries to plan their interaction with clients as well as prepare for the notarial deeds. The online tools, universal for all notarial offices, but accessible individually for each of them, provide electronic notarial registry, which is a revolutionary step. As of now, notaries register each deed into traditional paper book, which also serve as main legal document and proof of financial activities. The new electronic registry will not only serve for registering on notarial deeds, but also as a tool for accumulating statistics and data for the tax authorities, as well as calculating the clients’ bill and generating the invoice. The eNotaras system also will have a public interface which will allow clients to choose the notarial office, contact it and also keep track of previous and current history of dealing with notaries. Last, but not least, the eNotaras system will provide notaries a gateway to access the most of the Government-owned registries, necessary for the notarizing the deeds.
In future stages of development of eNotaras system we expect the larger online involvement between notaries and their clients, including the use of secure electronic means in order to notarizing deeds, starting from simple to more sophisticated ones.
4) How do new technologies change notarial services? In your opinion, where is the evolution in this field going?
Answer: IT is a key element for the future of notarial profession. In our opinion, the main challenge for notaries in 2020-ies is to ensure that both notaries and clients enjoy the benefits of online interaction and swift access to necessary registries and databases. But even more important is to ensure that notaries would preserve the exclusive right and obligation to legally oversee the whole process of notarization and exercise all means to ensure the rule of law.
5) Lithuanian notaries have been entrusted with new administrational functions as the amendments to the Civil Code and the Law on the Notariat took effect in 2016, could you tell us more about them? In your opinion, what other tasks could be carried out by notaries in your country in order to take the burden off of the state/judicial apparat?
Answer: As the amendments to the Civil Code and the Law on the Notariat took effect in 2016, notaries become empowered with new notarial deeds, and higher requirements to notaries had been introduced. According to the amendments of the Law on Notariate, the following new functions are introduced on January 1, 2016:
- granting notaries powers of issuing enforcement records related to notarized deeds;
- authenticating documents with Apostille;
- providing mediation services.
The amendments of the Civil Code have also introduced the higher role of notaries when dealing with legal incapacity. Notaries were empowered with validating the durable power of attorney to the individuals who wish to make necessary arrangements in case of becoming legally incapable. Notaries have been also granted the right to notarize the aid decision contracts. After passing of the above-mentioned amendments in Parliament, the Lithuanian Chamber of Notaries undertook some serious efforts in preparing notaries for their new functions and responsibilities. A number of seminars and professional training sessions have taken place in order to ensure that notaries provide the most professional and competent service to clients.
Opinion polls, commissioned by the Chamber of Notaries, show that public favors the idea of granting the notaries the right to notarize divorces, when divorcees do not have property disputes or underage children. Such notarial functions were legitimized in Latvia and Estonia a number of years ago. So far, political decision makers have not taken decisions on that issue. In the opinion of the Chamber of Notaries, such decision would benefit the citizen and lessen the burden of Lithuanian courts.
6) What role do mediation procedures play in Lithuania? Is mediation compulsory in certain situations? How does a notary become a mediator, is there any kind of certification required?
Answer: Despite of the fact that the right to mediate was granted to notaries starting with 2016, notaries do not use this right. Mediation in Lithuania only emerges but it’s not popular yet. There are no obligatory cases of mediation, as well as there are no requirements for non-court mediators. The reform of mediation is being prepared in Lithuania, envisaging obligatory training and examination for persons who seek to become mediators. The list of the cases when mediation should be obligatory also is about to be established.
7) What conditions must a person fulfill in order to become a notary in Lithuania? Who appoints a notary into office? How many notaries are there currently in Lithuania?
Answer: According to the law, the persons who seek to become notaries are now required to have both Bachelor's and Master's degrees in legal studies or a single-step lawyer's qualification university degree. The person willing to become a notary must have at least five years of experience of work in the legal sphere, or five-year experience in legal academic and pedagogical field. Persons eligible to these requirements must pass the notarial examination, arranged periodically by the Ministry of Justice, except legal academicians. Those who have passed the examination, must wait for the public contest in order to apply for the position of notary in certain municipality. Such public contests are usually held by the Ministry of Justice, in accordance to the need, established by Ministry.
The practice of candidate notaries, or assessors, recently has been extended from 1 year to two years. After winning the public contest, candidates other than assessors must undergo 6-month practice period before becoming notaries. The notary is appointed and sworn-in by the Minister of Justice. There are 263 notaries in Lithuania.
8) What is the structure of organization of the Lithuanian notaries? What laws govern the notarial activities and organization? Is membership in the notarial chamber compulsory?
Answer: The activities and organization of notaries is governed by the Law on Notariat, which was introduced in 1992, upon the reform of the old Soviet notarial system into the one, based on the principles of Latin notariat. The membership of notaries in the national Chamber is compulsory. The key decisions regarding the policies of the Chamber are being taken by the Presidium (the Board) of the Chamber. It consists of the President, Vice President, and members of Presidium, representing five notarial constituencies. The Presidium is elected by the General Assembly of the members of Chamber of Notaries for the term of three years. The sessions of the General Assembly convene twice a year. The Presidium reports to the General Assembly. The Chamber of Notaries conducts administrative activities with primary focus on providing the legal advice to notaries and their professional training.
9) Notaries are traditionally perceived as guardians of legal certainty. How is the security of transactions achieved by the Lithuanian notaries? How are the notarial deeds numbered, is there a centralized system for identification of the notarial acts?
Answer: Co-operation between notaries and state-owned registries is a key element in ensuring the security of notarial deed. Before notarizing the deed the notary is obliged to verify the client, property and other data with the information in state-owned registries. Thus notary receives assurance that there are no limitations on property use imposed, or the power of attorney document was not counterfeited, or the identity document was not stolen, etc. Information on the notarized real estate transactions, marital contract, the testament or power of attorney is transmitted by notary to the state registries, therefore all information can be verified.
All notarial deeds are registered in the notary’s registry. Each notary has its own registry. In the nearest perspective these registries will move to the electronic system of eNotaras.
10) For quite some time now the Regulation (EU) No 650/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council on jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition and enforcement of decisions and acceptance and enforcement of authentic instruments in matters of succession and on the creation of a European Certificate of Succession, has been a big topic for all European notaries. Since August, 2015 when the Regulation came into effect there have been numerous discussions about problems arising with its application. How did Lithuanian notaries embrace the Regulation and what are the main topics or problems connected with its application?
Answer: So far Lithuanian notaries haven’t faced any major problems while implementing the above-mentioned Regulation. There have been only several succession cases requiring to issue the European Certificate of Succession. Mostly often notaries discuss the jurisdiction and applicable law issues. There are some cases when the deceased persons have leaved to other EU country, but all successors and the property remained in Lithuania. The information exchange with other countries is also important.
11) The Lithuanian Chamber of Notaries is also very active in the international field especially providing support to young or new founded Notariats. Where is your international support directed at right now?
Answer: The Chamber, as well as all Lithuanian notaries, have gone a long way while reforming and strengthening the profession as well as building new notarial traditions in transiting Nation and constantly changing and evolving legal and legislative environment. In our opinion, this outstanding experience may be applicable to other countries that attempt to build Latin-type of notarial system. We have established good working relations with notarial chambers of Ukraine and Kazakhstan, the dialogue with colleagues in Belarus is also rapidly emerging. In the short and medium terms we see a need to share our knowledge and experience with all who needs it. This year we expect the continuation of intensive dialogue with the colleagues in Ukraine, who now live in dynamic environment of changing legislation and other processes.
12) Mr. President, what would you say is unique about the Lithuanian Notaria in comparison with other countries?
Answer: Each notariat has its own distinctive features and unique experience. We can be proud of the fact that we successfully accepted the German notarial system and modified it in accordance to our legislature. We also can be proud of the high level of trust and confidence that our clients show us.
13) Could you please tell us what are the biggest objectives and challenges for your Notariat in the next years?
Answer: Our major objectives are further building and implementing of electronic notariat, strengthening of partnership with Ministry of Justice, expanding the sphere of notarial activities and functions. The challenges are always serious – ensuring that notaries are capable of keeping up with these objectives, that they are educated and professional enough.
14) Mr. President, what is the main reason you became a notary? What do you like the most about being a notary? And apart from all your professional activities what do you like to do in your free time?
Answer: I would re-phase the question – what is or was the main reason for many colleagues to become notaries? There is the infinity of answers, especially if we spoke about the best of the best notaries. Some of them are brilliant lawyers with a kind of “couch potatoes”, or “office potatoes” characters, who like the order of notarial office, daily routine, laws and codices. Others are great lawyers who are fond of communicating with people, and there is no lack of people who come to notarial offices. Another kind of my colleagues is people who feel sympathy, compassion and are willing to help other people. But despite of different motives, my colleagues are united by common motivation and respect to profession and clients.
Daniela Machova, notary candidate,
member of the International Committee
of the Notarial Chamber of Czech Republic