Litigation & Appeals Law

All About Affidavits

Affidavits are commonly used legal instruments. Your attorney may suggest that you provide an affidavit that may be used as evidence in a lawsuit. You may also need to execute an affidavit in order to complete a legal document such as a voter registration card or a name change. As with any legal instrument, it is important to understand exactly what an affidavit is and how it is commonly used before executing one.
What is an Affidavit?
An affidavit is a written document that purports to be the voluntary and truthful statements of the affiant (the person signing the document). There are few requirements for what must be contained in an affidavit. In most jurisdictions, an affidavit must have the affiant’s name and physical address and be signed by the affiant, witnesses and the notary public. The substantive content of an affidavit should be limited to what the affiant knows to be true because of direct observation or experience. It is also important to remember that, by definition, an affidavit is a voluntary statement. That means that a person cannot be required to sign an affidavit by a judge or any other party.
Most states require that a person swear under oath that the statements are true before signing the document in front of a notary public or another public official who is authorized to take oaths. A person who lies on an affidavit can be sued for perjury and subject to the same sentence as others who lie under oath if convicted of perjury. Anyone who is eligible to take an oath in court is usually allowed to make an affidavit. That means that the affiant must understand the content of the affidavit, the importance of an oath and the consequences for violating an oath.
When are Affidavits Typically Used?
Affidavits are typically used to gather evidence in a lawsuit or to make a legal declaration.   If you want to register to vote, change your name, conduct certain real estate transactions or gather evidence in a lawsuit then an affidavit may be appropriate. In most cases, a person who signs an affidavit for use in a lawsuit should be prepared to testify in that lawsuit so that the affidavit can be admissible and is not excluded on the basis of hearsay.
What You Should Do if You Have Questions About an Affidavit?
Many types of affidavits can be completed with the assistance of preprinted forms. For example, if you want to change your name or make an affidavit of title for a real estate matter then you can usually use a preprinted form and present to a notary public for legal execution. If you are asked to complete an affidavit related to an existing or potential lawsuit or if you have any questions about a preprinted form and its legal implications then you should consult an attorney in your state for further information. It is important to remember that the consequences for perjury can be significant and that your affidavit must be truthful. If used in the correct way, affidavits are inexpensive and useful means of evidence for legal purposes.
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