What Is an Affidavit?
If you’re verifying financial information, recovering from identity theft or going through a divorce, you may need to write an affidavit.
These sworn legal statements provide declarations of facts that can be useful in many common situations.
An affidavit is a sworn statement of fact that the signer, known as the affiant, declares to be true and accurate. Essentially, it’s the written equivalent of swearing to tell the truth on the witness stand.
Because an affidavit is considered a legal document, it must be signed in the presence of an authorized witness, such as a notary public or a designated court officer. This person must also sign the statement.
Affidavits may be required in various legal, governmental, business or financial situations. They’re frequently used in family law and estate planning. Common uses for affidavits include:
- Resolving property disputes
- Entering into contracts
- Providing witness statements for criminal cases (particularly if the witness can't appear in court)
- Filling out government forms, such as voter registrations or driver’s license applications
- Applying for a concealed weapon permit
- Ensuring the validity of a last will and testament
- Notifying banks, creditors and credit bureaus of identity theft
- Recovering lost or damaged documents, such as promissory notes
- Asserting that a power of attorney is valid and currently in effect
- Verifying financial information, such as income, assets, debts and expenses, in a divorce
Affidavits contain four key elements:
- A declaration that the affiant swears the information being provided is truthful and accurate. If the statement also contains opinions or beliefs, that should be clearly expressed.
- A statement of facts or information. All relevant facts or information should be presented clearly and accurately. If the statement includes a sequence of events, these should be presented in the order in which they occurred.
- The affiant’s signature. The affiant should only sign a document that they believe to be accurate and correct.
- The signature of an authorized witness. Affidavits must be signed in the presence of a court or government official or a notary public.
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General affidavits are often created by filling out templates. These forms are typically provided by the entity requiring the statement, such as a court or financial institution. Attorneys may also provide affidavit forms for various purposes, such as divorce proceedings or name changes. Individuals who need to create affidavits for personal use may use downloadable templates available for free online at sites such as RocketLawyer or LegalTemplates. In many cases, these general affidavits may be customized for more specific purposes by answering a series of questions.
However, some institutions, such as the federal government, may require specific affidavit forms. For example, an individual who wishes to sponsor a family- or employment-based immigrant to the United States must fill out form I-864, which guarantees financial responsibility for the applicant.
Affidavits are legally binding documents. As such, they should be accurate and true. If an affidavit contains errors, they should be corrected before the document is signed. Individuals who knowingly and willfully sign an affidavit that contains false statements may face legal consequences, such as fines or jail time.
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