Whether in a courtroom drama or your personal or business affairs, it is likely that at some point, you will hear the word affidavit–you may even have to sign one yourself. But what is an affidavit? What are they used for, and how do you write one if you’re ever required to do so?
In this article, we’re going to examine what an affidavit is, what they are used for, and how to write an affidavit yourself or with the help of a blank affidavit form. Take a look now to learn more.
What is an Affidavit?
An affidavit is a sworn statement made by a person before an officer of the court or notary. It is made outside of the court and asserts all the facts that are true to the best of the knowledge of the person writing it. Affidavits that are going to be used in court will always be collected before the trial begins and are used in preparation for the trial. They are used by both prosecution and defense attorneys in court proceedings.
In some cases, a witness may contradict what they stated in their affidavit when giving testimony in court. If this occurs, an affidavit can be submitted into evidence and used to impeach that witness. This would likely lead to criminal charges of perjury if the contradiction in question was made knowingly and intentionally and involved a material issue. This is in accordance with Federal Rule of Evidence 607.
Though affidavits are used in court, they are also found in many other areas, including driver’s license applications, voter registrations, and concealed weapons permits. Below, we have summarized a number of different affidavits so you can get to know these statements a little better.
In court, affidavits are used if a witness is not able to appear in court, and they can be used in support of written motions. They may also be used for witnesses who will appear in court too. They are crucial when settling disputes and are often used to legitimize a claim.
Self-proving will affidavit
This kind of affidavit is used to deem a will valid without the testimony of any of the witnesses. A will needs at least two witnesses to the maker’s signature to be valid, so to avoid having to prove this in court with witness testimony, an affidavit can be signed.
Affidavit of power of attorney
Power of attorney is signed by one person (the principal) that gives another person (the agent) authority to act on their behalf and is ended only if power of attorney is revoked or the principal dies.
An affidavit is used if a third party needs to act in reliance on the power of attorney. The agent will need to sign an affidavit stating that the power of attorney has not been revoked, nor has the person died–so, power of attorney is still in effect.
This is an affidavit used to verify certain financial information and is very common in divorce cases. Each party is required to verify assets, debts, income, and expenses and sign an affidavit confirming it all.
Financial affidavits may also be used in cases of estate planning and other financial transactions.
Affidavit of identity theft
Victims of identity theft tend to have to verify that they have been a victim of such by providing an affidavit to creditors, credit bureaus, and banks.
Affidavit of a lost document
In some cases, legal documents may be lost or destroyed. These can be reestablished with an affidavit. It allows a third party to rely on your assurance that the legal document did exist.
Sworn Statement Vs. Affidavit
Though an affidavit is, in effect, a written sworn statement, it needs to be witnessed by a notary to make it legally valid. A sworn statement does not need this. Sworn statements save time and money, but their legal weight may differ from state to state.
Affidavit Forms: The Basics
Writing an affidavit requires you to follow certain rules. Like many legal documents, there are some parts that have to be included for them to be accepted. Below, we’ve listed everything that needs to be included in an affidavit.
- A statement in which the affiant (the person writing the affidavit) swears an oath of truthfulness for the information that is contained within the affidavit.
- The specific information which has been sworn to be true.
- The signature of the affiant.
- The formal attestation of an official who is allowed to administer oaths, i.e. a court official or notary public.
Top tips for writing an affidavit
Whether you’re writing it for yourself or on behalf of another person, there are a few things you should try to do to ensure your affidavit is correct and easy to understand. These are as follows:
- Use short sentences.
- Don’t use too much legal jargon.
- Ensure your thoughts are organized clearly and concisely so that it is easy to understand.
- Keep the document short.
- Avoid ambiguous statements.
- Use correct spelling and grammar.
It is important to note that you must tell the truth in an affidavit. If you lie, it could lead to criminal prosecution and accusations of perjury. The document is signed under oath, so contradictions in sworn statements can be damaging to court cases.
An affidavit must be signed and notarized. This means you need a notary public to observe any witnessing requirements. If this is not done, your affidavit is no longer legally valid.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Create an Affidavit?
For court proceedings, a lawyer would normally create the affidavit form for a witness or client. If the affidavit in question is part of a trial, you can usually rely upon the defense or prosecution attorneys to ensure your affidavit is completed correctly and notarized.
For other matters, including personal and family matters, you may create an affidavit yourself. If you don’t know what needs to be included or would like a little guidance, many websites have a catalog of blank legal documents that you can fill out. This is a much more cost-effective method than hiring a lawyer.
Final Thoughts: Understanding Affidavits
Affidavits can sound confusing when you first hear of them, but in essence, all they are is a sworn written statement. They need to be notarized to be legally binding, and you cannot lie when writing one. Consider finding blank affidavit forms online to draw up a coherent document for use in court, wills, power of attorney cases, and more.