An affidavit is a voluntary, sworn statement made under oath, used as verification for various purposes. The statement is witnessed and signed by a notary public or other law official authorized to do so. Once signed, the document is legally binding and the person signing is subject to being charged with perjury if the affidavit contains false information. To explore this concept, consider the following affidavit definition.
Definition of Affidavit
- A statement that is written and confirmed by oath or affirmation
- A written report that is signed by a person who swears that the information included in the document is accurate to the best of their knowledge
Late 1500s Medieval Latin word affidare, which means, he has made an oath.
What is an Affidavit?
An affidavit is a sworn written statement of facts, made under oath, and under penalty of perjury, that the statements are true to the best of his or her knowledge. The person making the oath signs the affidavit form in front of a witness, most commonly a notary public, who verifies the identity of the person signing (the “signatory”). An affidavit is a voluntary action and is admissible as evidence in court hearings.
Requirements for Signing an Affidavit
There are no statues in the United States that require a person making an affidavit to be a minimum age, however the person must be of sound mind and must fully understand the seriousness of signing under oath. For instance, the person signing an affidavit form must be aware that providing false information within the affidavit is a crime. While it is common for adults over the age of 18 to make affidavits, on rare occasion, minors are asked to do so in family court proceedings.
When an Affidavit is Needed
There are many reasons a person might find himself in need of an affidavit, including:
- To notify a third party such as a creditor of a death or other change of circumstance
- To confirm a residential address or verify residency
- To confirm or provide a name change, such as in the event of marriage or divorce
- To confirm a person’s identity, such as in the event personal or financial information has been stolen or comprised
- To claim ownership of property or assets
- To confirm formal statements that may be used as evidence in court hearings
- To confirm the receipt of official documents
What is Included in an Affidavit?
An affidavit includes basic information. While the types of affidavits vary greatly, some information is required in order for the document to be considered legal and valid. This includes:
- The full legal name person swearing the affidavit
- The full address of the person swearing the affidavit
- The facts or reasons for the affidavit
- Signatures and dates for both the affiant and the notary public
- Other information as requested by a third party or court
Types of Affidavit
A basic affidavit is non-specific and simply serves as a formal statement of fact that can be used for an array of purposes. There are also a number of commonly used affidavits designed for specific purposes.
- Small Estate Affidavits – This affidavit is most often used when a spouse or close relative has died without leaving a will. This affidavit requires the signer to swear that they are the person that should be responsible for settling the estate and distributing any assets left behind.
- Affidavit of Death – After a person has passed away, a family member may have to sign an affidavit in order to notify a company, the court, or other entity that the person has died. This affidavit typically requires the deceased person’s name, date of birth, and date of death.
- Affidavit of Heirship – This type of affidavit is also used after the death of a relative. The signer uses it to assert their legal rights to the assets that the deceased has left behind. By singing this affidavit, the person swears that they are the lawful heir of the deceased.
- Affidavit of Residence – This affidavit is used to verify the residence address of a person, whether living or deceased. For example, a parent might be required to sign an Affidavit of Residence to prove their address before their children can attend the local school. These affidavits may also be required when proving residence information for employment or tax purposes.
- Affidavit of Name Change – This affidavit pertains to people who have changed their name legally, but need to provide proof of the change to a company or other entity. This type of affidavit often requires the person to list their former name, their current name, and the state in which the name change took place.
- Financial Affidavit – This affidavit is most commonly used in divorce proceedings. The signers use the affidavit to state their financial status under oath. This may require each party to include information on their savings, annual income, and material assets.
- ID or Personal Information Theft Affidavit – This is commonly used when a person’s personal information or ID has been stolen or compromised. This signed affidavit is provided to banks, creditors, and credit agencies, as it is a sworn statement that the signer’s ID or personal information was stolen or compromised. Typically, in identity or credit card theft cases, this affidavit is required for the victim to begin recovering their
- Affidavit of Support – This legal affidavit made by a sponsor who is a U.S. citizen, assures the government that a visa applicant had ample means of financial support if allowed into the country.
How to Write an Affidavit
Writing an affidavit can be overwhelming, especially if the preparer is not sure where to start. Luckily, a wide array of sample affidavits is available online, giving users some ideas to use. When writing an affidavit, some basic steps should be followed:
- Case Identification. In the top-right hand corner, the preparer should list the court case number. Under the case number, the date should be inserted. For example:
Court Case No:
- Parties to the Case. After the case number, list the parties involved. For instance:
John Doe v. Allied Cement Company
- Statement of Fact. The preparer then states what is being attested to. For example:
I, John Doe, swear or affirm that: [insert facts to be attested to in an orderly format]
- Statement of Affirmation. After the facts have been laid out, the preparer should include a statement of affirmation. For example:
I, John Doe, hereby certify, under penalty of perjury, that the above-stated facts are true and correct to the best of my knowledge
- Signature and Witness. Once these basic elements are in place, the affidavit should be sworn. This requires the preparer to take the document to a notary public or an official commissioner. During this step, a government issued form of identification is required to prove the identity of the signer.
Tips for Writing an Effective Affidavit
When preparing an affidavit, users should follow some simple tips to ensure the document looks and sounds official.
- Use plain language and short sentences. Do not use complicated language or legal terms.
- Keep it brief. Get right to the point and leave out any information not related to the matter at hand.
- Keep it clear and organized. Using headings or bullet points to present the information in a clear and concise manner makes it easier to read and understand.
- No drama. Keep the statements drama free by avoiding melodramatic statements and inflammatory language. Dramatic statements, inflammatory language, and disparaging the other parties are unnecessary and can hinder the credibility of the signer.
- Spell check. Before finalizing the document, ensure it is free of all spelling and grammatical errors. Presenting an affidavit full of errors negatively affects credibility.
- Proofread the document. Read the document aloud to catch errors at least twice before taking it for signing. This helps ensure all of the information is in place and correct. If corrections are required after signing, it will be necessary to draw up a new document, as changes cannot be made to a signed document.
An affidavit is not considered legal or official until it has been notarized or witnessed by a legal official. Once both parties sign the affidavit, it becomes a sworn document. Providing false information on a sworn affidavit can render it invalid, and subject the signer to legal penalties. Officials certified to witness such documents may vary from state to state, but generally include:
- Notary Publics
- Staff members at certain banks
- Court officials
- Lawyers and paralegals
If a person is unsure which officials in their area can certify an affidavit, he can inquire at the local courthouse. On occasion, officials or organizations notarizing documents charge small fee for their services. They also record and keep record of the name, date, and reason for the affidavit.
Legal Implications of an Affidavit
When drawing up or swearing to statements within the affidavit, the person making the statements should realize that it is a serious matter. By signing, a person is making the same type of oath they would in a court of law. Providing false information or lying on an affidavit is a crime punishable by law. Some states consider this perjury and the penalty may include a fine, community service, and even jail time.
If a person has been charged with falsifying an affidavit, or of committing perjury, he should seek the help of a criminal defense attorney. The punishments for falsifying information range greatly depending on the state and the severity of the crime. Falsifying an affidavit for tax purposes may result in federal criminal charges.
Related Legal Terms and Issues
- Affirmation – the process of affirming something, attesting to or swearing to a fact.
- Notary Public – an official appointed by the state to serve as an impartial witness related to the signing of important These services are vital to deter fraud in the submission of such written documents.
- Perjury – the act of willfully lying or stating false facts in a court of law, or on a legal document, after having taken an oath.
- Notarized Document – any document signed before, and witnessed by, a Notary Public.