Notaries and closing attorneys: the Mexican system of recording land transfers was inherited from Spain along with the main body of Mexican law and jurisprudence. It centers on the notary (notaria or notario), who is an attorney who has studied and apprenticed extensively and eventually obtained one of a limited number of appointments to act in this capacity. A notary’s role here is far different from that of one in the United States, and more closely resembles that of a federal judge or magistrate with prescribed powers and record-keeping duties.
There are at the present time between 25 and 30 notaries in Baja California Sur. The notary has many roles in a land transaction, including:
a) assembling (or, more often, having others assemble and bring to him) all of the documents required for a valid transfer;
b) assuring himself or herself of the legal identity and authority of each person who will be executing the document;
c) drafting the actual document of transfer (the fideicomiso trust, for most foreigners);
d) supervising the parties’ and other participants’ signatures,
e) permanently retaining the original of the signed document and all the supporting documentation assembled;
f) issuing a certified copy or copies and seeing that one is properly recorded at the tax and public registry offices,
g) calculating – and collecting at or before the time of transfer – all of the taxes and official fees involved, and
h) making all the required tax and other fee payments to the various local, state and national authorities.
It is a big job, so the notary’s fee is a large part of the total closing costs, as contrasted to the relatively minor role and fee of a notary in the United States.
The closing attorney, is a licensed real estate attorney, who has similar activities as a Title Agent would in the states. They are the liaison between the buyer, seller and the notary. They collect all the relevant paperwork, check the titles to make sure they are clean, and communicate with the trust bank that holds the trust/fideicomiso. The closing attorney works closely with the notary.