Some weeks ago, I blogged about the HEMA deeds, low-cost notarial deeds being offered by Dutch retail store HEMA. This has led to quite some debate amongst notaries, and has even led to some questions being posed by Member of Parliament Jan de Wit to the Minister of Justice.
What is your response to the announcement that HEMA has started a notary’s service?
Do you share the opinion that this practice can lead to clients being insufficiently informed about the effects of their choices? If not, why not?
Do you think that this practice is desirable and is there enough room for clients and the notary to come to a balanced judgement? If so, why?
In which way can it be ascertained, prior to payment having been made and the draft deed made, whether the client: is competent to act, can ascertain the consequences of a last will and testament or a co-habitation agreement, or that the client has not been pressured by a third party?
Are you going to take action against this notary’s service to ensure to prevent that clients, in the final execution of the deed, are confronted with unwanted situations which lead to an increase in (legal) procedures? If so, what actions are you going to take exactly? If not, why not and how are you going to prevent that this will apply to multiple legal areas?
Answers by Deputy Minister
In brief, the Deputy Minister answered the following:
“The HEMA initiative shows entrepreneurship by notaries. (…) It is good that the notarial profession plays into the changing digital reality and also offers their services by using non-classical channels. A digital route can supplement the more traditional route, and could be useful for those people that know what they want and also understand the legal consequences of their actions. Whether there is a permanent and growing market for this, will have to be seen.”
Furthermore, the Deputy Minister states that:
“if the accessible initiative leads to people making use of the notarial services that would not have done so were it not for this initiative, then this means that, on balance, more people think about the effects of certain life choices.”
Additionally, the Deputy Minister does not currently see any reasons why he should intervene in these practices or prevent that this initiative spreads to other areas of the law. That latter point is very interesting, as HEMA has recently started offering a low-cost health insurance, and the CEO of HEMA, Ronald van Zetten, has said that while they are currently not working on it, they might in the future start offering mortgages as well.
While the Deputy Minister appears to be in favour, he was also keen to stress on numerous occasions in his answer, that of course these types of initiatives should stay within the limits of the law. Hence, he supported the fact that these practices were put before the Disciplinary Court. The Deputy Minister considers the question to be first and foremost one that requires the attention of the professionals themselves and is of the opinion that the Royal Dutch Association of Civil-law Notaries and its members together should set the professional standards and find the proper balance.
Therefore, it appears that the Deputy Minister seems to be in favour of the HEMA deeds, provided they are properly structured and fit within the rules and standards that come with the profession of civil law notary in the Netherlands. As the Deputy Minister reiterates that the HEMA deed notaries see their clients at least once, and talk to them on the phone also once, to me it seems perfectly logical that there should be no impediment to upholding the high standard that a notary has to fulfil in order to safeguard their clients’ interests. As I mentioned earlier, indeed the way to get to the notary is different, but the procedure when you are there is no different. We’ll see what the disciplinary court says.