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An Affidavit is a statement made voluntarily in writing. The affidavit needs to be signed before an officer who is empowered to administer such oaths.

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What is an Affidavit? 

An affidavit is a sworn statement made voluntarily in writing. The party giving the written statement declares the facts stated are true and confirms this under oath. It must be signed before an officer who is empowered to administer such oaths. The most commonly used statement is a general affidavit. This is seconded by a small estate affidavit.

One way to think about an affidavit is to compare it to testifying in court. When you’re called to testify in court proceedings, you swear that "you are telling the truth and nothing but the truth." So, you’re using a verbal oath to promise you’re going to tell the truth. With an affidavit, you are making the same type of promise in writing.

An affidavit form may be used in many different scenarios. In business, it is often used to confirm the financial security of an individual applying for a credit card, or the financial status of a corporation. Within the judicial system, it is generally used as evidence in trials and hearings. An affidavit form may also be used as evidence in administrative and quasi-judicial proceedings. However, this only happens if no objection is made to its use and if it is subject to cross-examination.

Because an affidavit is a legal statement, it verifies your personal information for identification purposes. This may include your full legal name, date of birth, age, and may also include your Social Security Number in some instances. Affidavits must be signed by the affiant (the person making the sworn statement) in front of a notary.

What is a statutory declaration? 

A statutory declaration is a form of affidavit. It serves the same basic purpose. The difference between an affidavit and a statutory declaration is that a statutory declaration is used in Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom. An affidavit is used in the United States.

The Essential Guide to Affidavits

By FormSwift Editorial Team
May 15, 2018

Introduction

Affidavits are, in many ways, very simple, but in other circumstances, they can be rather complicated. This guide is designed to walk you through all of the information you need in order to write one. It's also helpful to use a sample affidavit form to guide you. We will cover their common uses, required parties, tips for writing your own, and common forms.

When Should You Use an Affidavit? 

Affidavits can commonly be found in the following scenarios: 

  • Entering into a contract of agreement
  • During a court case for both the civil legal process (such as family law) and criminal matters
  • Applying for work with government agencies
  • As evidence for administrative hearings
  • Loss of cell phone or SIM card if you file an insurance claim through the carrier or third party insurance company
  • Name change
  • Requesting a birth certificate or death certificate
  • To prove your identity if you lose your driver’s license or other identification card

Types of Affidavits

Not all affidavits are the same although they're all used to verify that the affiant has personal knowledge of the information within the document. There are several types of affidavits, including:

  • Affidavit of Domicile: Commonly used when probating a will or navigating multiple trusts. This affidavit establishes the legal residence of the deceased at the time of their death. This type of affidavit may be state specific.
  • Affidavit of Heirship: Commonly used in estate planning. Typically, this affidavit is used to establish legal heirship of the deceased if they died without a valid will.
  • Affidavit of Marriage: Declares that two individuals are legally married. These affidavits are commonly used when a married couple cannot find their marriage certificate.

Affidavits for sweepstakes recipients

Many sweepstakes require a signed and notarized affidavit to confirm the identity of the winner in order to collect an award. This ensures that the potential winner is who they claim to be and are not trying to fraudulently claim a prize. Affidavits in this scenario verify the following:

  • The accuracy of the information you entered on your sweepstakes form
  • That you entered the contest legally and followed the contest rules
  • That you are eligible to win the sweepstakes
  • That you agree to the terms of accepting the price (if applicable)

Make sure you read the affidavit thoroughly before signing. Look carefully at what the affidavit requires and be sure you can comply with all the included provisions (e.g. having your picture published, etc.).

Affidavits in divorce

During the legal separation and divorce process, you will provide a financial affidavit. The affidavit components include information about your: income, expenses, assets (such as real property, bank accounts, and retirement accounts), and debts. Depending on your circumstance, that may not be a complete list of items that you'll need to address. Financial affidavits are used to determine how assets and debts will be divided between the former spouses. If you’re not truthful in this document and try to hide assets, the court may impose severe penalties, including awarding 100% of hidden assets to your former spouse. Financial affidavits require very specific information, including detailed itemization of all expenses in each of the previously mentioned categories.

Things to Keep in Mind

  • Regulations vary by state. Financial affidavits may be called something slightly different in your jurisdiction.
  • Your divorce attorney will only review this affidavit for major mistakes. It is your responsibility to ensure all of the information is complete and accurate.
  • You can revise your financial affidavit if your financial circumstances change, even after you file it with the court.

Legal Considerations of Affidavits

Given the legal importance of an affidavit, there are a number of considerations to keep in mind. Each and every statement made must be true. Don’t sign it if it isn’t true. If any statements within the document is found to be false, the affiant may be subject to legal consequences.

Notarization is another legal consideration.  In most cases, an affidavit is only considered legally valid if it is notarized. The affiant must sign the document in the presence of a notary. If the affiant signs it before they go in front of the notary, the notary will not notarize it because they can’t swear that the signature actually belongs to the affiant. In fact, because the document needs to be notarized, you cannot sign online if you choose to use on from the Internet.

Additionally, there is the legal consideration of the document’s quality.  Is it written in a way that can be clearly understood? Does it contain all of the legal language and the sections that are typically found in an affidavit?

Notarization

A notary serves as an impartial third party who can legally verify the identity of the persons involved in an affidavit. When meeting with a notary, they will require you to provide a legal form of identification. Notaries cannot provide legal advice, so avoid asking them for input regarding your situation.

Conclusion

As mentioned at the outset, affidavits are, on the one hand, rather straightforward. On the other hand, there are important nuances involved in their drafting and various uses to remember. Neglecting even the smallest of detail can jeopardize the legality of an affidavit. Therefore, we hope this guide shows you all you need to know to confidently handle any situation involving affidavits in your future.

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