What is an Affidavit?
An affidavit is a legal commitment, to tell the truth under oath, and you can be tried for perjury in court if you lie on it.
While there are many types of affidavits, general affidavits are used alongside witness statements to verify relevant information during court proceedings.
For quick reference, a signed affidavit form must include the following:
- Affiant: the individual signing the document and swearing the information is valid.
- Affirmation: a written statement of events exactly as they happened and that the affiant believes is true.
- Witnesses: impartial third parties formally certifying they were present when the affiant signed the affidavit.
- Penalty of perjury: a statement declaring that the affiant can be tried in court if their testimony is proven false.
- Notary public: a public official who will sign the affidavit and authenticate the oath and affirmation of the affiant.
- Attachments: any additional documents that support the sworn testimony of the affidavit.
What is an Affidavit Used For?
An affidavit is used to prove in court that a claim is accurate and is typically used in conjunction with witness statements and other supporting evidence.
Through an affidavit, an individual swears that the information within is accurate to their knowledge.
You’ll commonly find affidavits used in the following situations:
- Proving a relationship with a deceased individual
- Verifying finances to a judge or bank
- Being summoned to court because of a lawsuit against you
- Purchasing land or real estate
- Distributing property to beneficiaries of a last will and testament
Remember: the person signing an affidavit must swear they have personal knowledge of the facts. Second-hand information (known as “hearsay evidence”) isn’t legally permissible.
Related: How to Write an Affidavit in 6 Steps
Types of Affidavit and Their Meaning
There are several different types of affidavits, and each serves a unique purpose.
Here are the following ten most common types:
1. Small Estate Affidavit
A typical estate planning document of the probate process (when a court validates a last will and testament), a small estate affidavit helps expedite the property distribution process of a deceased individual. In case the estate of the deceased is below a specific value (dependent on state law), this form can quickly transfer property to beneficiaries.
Expensive items like vehicles or real estate aren’t usually included in small estate affidavits. They tend to exceed the amount allowed by the state and must be transferred through other means.
2. Affidavit of Heirship
Typically used during the probate process, an affidavit of heirship verifies that someone had a familial relationship with the deceased. This helps speed up property distribution after a family member passes away.
3. Affidavit of Residence
An affidavit of residence proves that you or someone else lived at a stated address. This type of statement is used for multiple purposes — for instance, your made-up neighbor, David, wants to enroll their child at the public school, Alpha Academy, while David applies for college. He’ll need to provide this affidavit when registering his child in public school or applying for in-state tuition rates for college.
Your housing zone typically determines public school placement and tuition, and an affidavit of residence is needed to verify your address.
4. Affidavit of Service
Unless you’ve been on the receiving end of a lawsuit, you haven’t had to deal with an affidavit of service — though you’ve likely seen someone being “served” in movies or courtroom dramas.
Process servers (someone tasked with delivering critical legal papers) use this affidavit to verify that the recipient was given relevant documents such as an official summons to appear in court due to a lawsuit.
Check out our Affidavit of Service form ➜
5. Affidavit of Domicile
An affidavit of domicile isn’t likely to be a document you’re familiar with unless you’ve been named an executor of an estate. You’ll need this affidavit to attest that the deceased person (whose estate you’ve been named executor) lived at their declared primary residence in such an event.
This verification is needed to efficiently transfer ownership of specific properties like stocks and securities. With this document, an executor will be able to legally transfer the residence of a deceased person to the newly appointed owner.
6. Financial Affidavit
A financial affidavit or affidavit of financial disclosure is used to attest to someone’s finances. It contains all relevant information about the person’s current finances like total income, debts, and expenses.
7. Affidavit of Death
When individuals pass away, they often leave behind unfinished tasks that need to be taken care of. With an affidavit of death, another party (usually a close friend, family member, or legal professional) can verify the deceased personal information and date of death to handle any remaining legal or financial affairs efficiently.
8. Affidavit of Title
This affidavit is used during real estate transactions. Unlike a quitclaim deed, the seller owns a given property and isn’t currently undergoing bankruptcy. If any liens are held on the property, that information must be stated on the form.
An affidavit of title further protects the buyer by attesting that they’re the sole recipients of the property, and no other person or party has a claim to the real estate in question.
9. Affidavit of Identity
An affidavit of identity is used to verify who you claim to be. Banks or other financial institutions frequently use this affidavit to certify your identity.
Standard identification documents can be easily falsified (like a driver’s license), so they don’t have solid legal standing in court.
10. Gift Affidavit
This sworn legal document verifies that you’ve willingly transferred property ownership to another person as a gift.
While not required in some states, a gift affidavit helps guarantee the recipient was given the property free and clear, and the donor hasn’t been wrongfully coerced into giving the property away.
The Purpose of Having a Legal Affidavit
This document proves to be very versatile. Whether you’re verifying your address for a school application or proving you’re related to a deceased family member to receive property left in their will, you’ll find yourself using some affidavit.
Having a properly written, signed, and notarized affidavit is crucial for many legal processes. So it’s essential to completely understand what an affidavit is before you agree to sign one.