What is an Affidavit?

As one of the most common terms seen in the legalese language, “affidavit” has become quite popular for individuals who may be going through court proceedings. And while it may be understandable for people who have no legal issues to not know the meaning of the said word, one can never know if it is safe to sign something unless they gain a basic understanding. So, what exactly is an affidavit and where is it used?

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An Overview

An affidavit is a signed document proving someone’s understanding of predetermined requirements tied to some procedure. For example, signing an affidavit when voting is legal proof that the voter has not done anything to commit fraud or violate laws related to voting. The same applies to court proceedings where these documents are used to verify that the person is promising to tell the truth. So, it is just another way to hold someone under oath while creating tangible evidence of it.

A Common Misconception

One of the most common misconceptions related to affidavits is the fact that people tend to see them as just another sworn statement. This somewhat makes sense since both of these legal documents are fairly similar and include content that is often the same. Nonetheless, affidavits are used as a more formal alternative because, according to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, people must sign them in front of a public official such as a notary. That way, the notary can certify that the statement was signed by the correct person and that it is indeed their representation of the truth. If it turns out to be false, the one who lied will be held accountable under perjury laws that carry hefty penalties.

A sworn statement is much less formal as people use them to describe personal recounts of events. In other words, they can use everyday language to say what they believe happened. And even though there is a final paragraph saying that the creator of the statement swears that everything in it is true, the signing does not have to take place in front of a public official. This is one of the reasons why courts usually prefer affidavits over sworn statements. Regardless, getting something signed in front of a public official may take much longer than simply creating a statement and swearing that it is true. Hence why both of these alternatives are still in existence and why people tend to use them interchangeably.

Where Affidavits Are Used

There is no clear-cut guideline defining or limiting the areas where an affidavit may be appropriate. This is because anyone can use them when they want to increase the credibility of certain information that is going to be presented for review by the court or some other authoritative body. It is important to note, however, that there are a few situations where the law mandates affidavits. These include things like issues related to family law or estate planning that are usually based on verbal evidence and participants’ honesty.

While those who are not engaging in any legal matters may not need to know the vast majority of legal terms, there are always some basics that can come in handy. Understanding the definition and purpose of an affidavit is a prime example as it can be applied to practically any field at any moment.