Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Authentic Act Definition:

Civil law: a contract or other legal document which has been properly prepared or authenticated by a court officer, such as a notary, and thereafter given enhanced evidentiary status of its authenticity.

Also authentic deed.

In civil law systems, authentic acts (French, acte authentique) were designed to facilitate the administration of justice by outsourcing some of the formal functions of a common law judicial system.

In civil law jurisdiction, certain individuals are given special privileges authorizing them to draft or endorse certain legal documents, such as contracts, wills, real property transfers and gifts. By their action of endorsement, also called authentification, the document gains special status. In almost all cases, an authentic act (acte authentique) benefits from a prima facie presumption as to its authenticity as regards to the rights and privileges extended therein. This makes it difficult to contest.

In other cases, the authentifying officer acts as a registry and holder of a unique record of the document an can make certified copies of the original if later required (the original is typically given to the parties), thus acting in some respects as a land titles, wills or vital statistics registries of common law systems.

The process of authentification usually requires that the officer ensures that the proposed document meets the legal requirements for the document at hand. For example, a will or marriage contract may have statutory requirements that are verified by the authentificating officer as part of the authentificating process.

In the Canadian province of Quebec, a civil law jurisdiction, the office of authentification of formal legal documents is the notary, as licensed by the Chambres des notaires du Quebec. A notarized document is by definition an authentic act.


  • Chambre des notaires du Quebec (website as of March 15, 2010)
  • Bromberger, J., Petit dictionnaire juridique, 2e edition (Paris: Libraries Techniques, 1967), page 16
  • Reid, H., Dictionnaire de Droit Quebecois et Canadien, 2e ed. (Montreal: Wilson & Lafleur, 2001), page 13

Categories & Topics:

Always looking up definitions? Save time with our search provider (modern browsers only)

If you find an error or omission in Duhaime's Law Dictionary, or if you have suggestion for a legal term, we'd love to hear from you!