What Is an Affidavit?

Updated August 1, 2023
15 min read
What Is an Affidavit?

Introduction

If you have ever needed to attest to something, you have probably been asked to sign an affidavit. However, before signing, many people will ask, what is an affidavit? An affidavit is a legal document that contains a person’s true written and signed statement that may be used as evidence in court.

These documents help witnesses recount their story once rather than every time they are asked. They also help the other parties by preventing confusion over differing details in a person’s story. For instance, in the context of personal affairs, such documents could be used for affirming one's residency or for more sensitive matters like divorce procedures. Check out other personal legal templates to find examples of affidavits and other personal templates that could assist you in handling such matters effectively.

What Does Affidavit Mean?

When a person asks what an affidavit is, an affidavit definition can be given: affidavits are similar to statutory declarations and witness statements. These documents contain written and signed statements that are used for evidence. However, the formats, uses, and requirements of affidavits can differ.

Affidavits are statements of facts made under oath. This oath refers to a commitment to truth wherein the declarant only includes information in the statement based on personal knowledge or belief. Affidavits are used in court or by other official institutions, such as banks. However, they also serve important purposes outside the courtroom. For instance, if someone inherits property and needs to transfer it to their name, they may need to supply an affidavit of survivorship form.

Other names for this document include the following:

  • Notarized statement;

  • Statement under oath;

  • Sworn statement.

When Should an Affidavit Be Used?

The most common use of affidavits is in court proceedings, where they represent written statements that could serve as an alternative to a witness giving oral testimony. Affidavits have a wide range of applications and can be used to prove several things. 

They're typically used to tell a person’s story in disputes and claim an inheritance; however, they can also be used to verify an address, enter into a marriage, or even confirm the receipt of legal documents. An affidavit of service, for example, is frequently used to prove that legal paperwork was properly served to the relevant parties. When written correctly and presented at the right times, affidavits can significantly influence court decisions. 

It's noteworthy to mention that since an affidavit has the same requirements of truth as oral testimony in court, knowingly providing false evidence in an affidavit may result in charges of perjury. If a person is found to have committed perjury by providing incorrect information in an affidavit, a judge may impose a sentence of imprisonment unless there are exceptional circumstances. 

The process of effectively writing and filing an affidavit, especially for complex matters or high-stake cases, might necessitate the guidance of a legal professional. Finding qualified lawyers near you could help you navigate the intricacies and potential pitfalls of the process.

Purpose of an Affidavit

Affidavits verify the legitimacy of a claim and are used in conjunction with witness statements or other related evidence in a dispute or a criminal matter. The person who signs the affidavit must be personally aware of the facts contained within, and they must swear that the testimony is 100 percent true.

How to Write an Affidavit

Anyone can complete an affidavit, but it must be notarized before it is valid. You can write or type your affidavit using the following steps.

Title the affidavit

Affidavits must have titles. Affidavit titles should inform the reader what the sworn statement is about. The attester’s name and the topic of the affidavit should be included.

The name of the case and case number are also required in this section if the affidavit is being filed with the court. This information can be found in any relevant court document. The case number appears with the name of the court, county, and state.

Create an identity statement

A statement of identity is the next section of the affidavit. Enter the attester’s personal information here, such as name, age, employment, residence, and any other relevant information. This section aims to introduce the person making the statement and give all pertinent information to support the person’s authority to make the included claims.

Compose a truth statement

The affidavit requires a section to swear that the attester has told the truth to the best of his or her knowledge. Statements of fact are equivalent to statements made under oath in court. The attester must identify himself in the statement of truth. It must be written in the first person and be concise. This is essentially a promise not to lie in the affidavit.

Describe the facts

This is the most extended portion of the affidavit, and it must include accurate information to the best of the attester’s ability to recall the facts. Use the following guidelines to prepare this portion of your affidavit:

  1. Focus on the facts — Do not include personal observations or opinions in your affidavit. Focus on the points and keep them concise, clear, and objective. When writing that you saw a suspect near a crime scene, you would simply write what you saw and not that they appeared guilty. Recollect the facts as best you can. The lawyers and judge will interpret the facts. Explain the facts, including any relevant names, locations, dates, and times.

  2. Outline your facts clearly — Identify the facts relevant to your affidavit after creating an outline of everything you remember about the event. Arrange the points in a logical order. The best way to present facts about most situations is chronologically.

    Write each fact in its paragraph and refer to any supporting documents as exhibits in each paragraph. The sections should be numbered to make it easy for the reader to follow. This is how a simple statement might look:

    1. I saw Jane Smith and Mr. Brown confronting on the street the morning before;

    2. I last saw Jane Smith at 245 Burns Lane around 11 that morning;

    3. Around 12:15 p.m., my neighbor called 911 when she discovered Mr. Brown’s body;

    4. At 12:47 p.m., the police arrived and began questioning everyone.

Reiterate your assertion of truth

After recounting all the facts, conclude with a statement of truth. The only thing needed here is a summary statement that what is written above is true.

Sign in front of a notary

To complete the affidavit, sign it and have it notarized. Most of the affidavit can be completed before it is notarized, but do not sign the document until you are in the presence of a licensed notary. The notary will also need to sign the following:

  • Affidavits that are altered or changed during notarization;

  • The affidavit page by page;

  • And exhibits if they are included in the affidavit. 

Bring all related documents to the meeting

Before having your affidavit notarized, check the laws in your state. To get something notarized, you will need proof that you are who you say you are, such as a passport or driver’s license. In some states, you can have your affidavit notarized remotely, but most still require it notarized in person.

When Do You Have to Write an Affidavit?

Affidavits are often associated with television crime dramas but aren’t only with serious crimes. An affidavit can be requested for several reasons, including any of the following:

  • To detail an event;

  • To claim an inheritance;

  • To record business;

  • To verify an address;

  • To enter into marriage;

  • To determine child custody;

  • To confirm receipt of legal documents;

  • To change a name;

  • To prove death;

  • To battle identity theft;

  • To make an age declaration;

  • To prove residency;

  • To prove divorce;

  • To make a sworn statement.

Affidavits are legal documents that provide details about a specific event. Regardless of why you are filling one out, you must be truthful. You could be sentenced to jail or fined for knowingly lying in an affidavit.

Conclusions

When settling a dispute, an affidavit, meaning a document with a sworn statement attesting to facts, can be an essential piece of evidence. Affidavits can influence court decisions if appropriately used. 

Sometimes, an affidavit will certify facts about the parties’ lives, such as their financial status. The purpose of affidavits is to provide certifiable facts in a way that they can reasonably be guaranteed to be accurate. Honesty is always the best policy.

Tapping into Lawrina to find legal resources and templates can help you navigate the complexities of legal documents like affidavits. Ultimately, when it comes to legal matters, especially those involving a court, it's better to get expert advice from a professional attorney. Having one by your side can ensure that your defense or arguments are supported by correctly drafted or filled-out legal documents, saving you from potential hassle or losses.

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Article by
Inna Chumachenko
Lawrina

Inna Chumachenko is the Content Lead at Lawrina. She is responsible for managing all the content found on the blog, guides, and other website pages. Inna has a degree in philology and a vast interest in law. In her role at Lawrina, Inna oversees the content team, establishes collaborations with writers, and curates content from various contributors.

If you have any questions or suggestions regarding the content for Lawrina, please feel free to contact Inna directly via email at i.chumachenko@lawrina.org or connect with her on LinkedIn.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are common affidavit uses?

An affidavit is a written statement sworn to be true by the person making it. Legal proceedings often rely on affidavits to present facts or evidence. Affidavits can be used for various purposes, some of which are part of legal proceedings.

One everyday use of an affidavit is to provide testimony in a court case. If a witness cannot appear in court, they may be asked to provide an affidavit that can be used as evidence. Affidavits can also be used in the pre-trial phase of a case while each party gathers information and establishes facts.

 

Affidavits can be used to provide evidence of employment, financial support, or another relevant fact. Another common use of an affidavit is in the context of immigration. As part of the immigration process, applicants may be required to provide affidavits to demonstrate their eligibility for a visa or other immigration status.

Affidavits are also commonly used in the context of business transactions. For example, an affidavit may provide evidence of compliance with specific regulations or verify the accuracy of financial statements.

Overall, affidavits are versatile tools that can be used in various legal and business contexts to provide evidence and establish facts.

What are common affidavit forms?

An affidavit is a written statement made under oath that is often requested by an attorney to be used as evidence in a legal proceeding. Many different types of affidavit forms may be used depending on the circumstances. Some common examples include:

  • Affidavit of Identity: This affidavit form is used to verify a person’s identity, often in cases where a government-issued ID is unavailable.
  • Affidavit of Support: This form demonstrates that a person has sufficient financial resources to support another individual, often required in the context of immigration.
  • Affidavit of Service: This form is used by courts to confirm that a legal document has been served to the appropriate party.
  • Affidavit of Residence: This form is used to confirm a person’s place of residence for legal purposes.
  • Affidavit of Name Change: This form documents a legal name change, such as after marriage or divorce.

 

These are just a few examples of the many different types of affidavit forms that are commonly used. It’s essential to use the appropriate document for your particular situation and ensure the form is completed accurately and under oath.