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, in general, a standard legal affidavit is used alongside witness statements to verify relevant information during court proceedings. But what is an affidavit used for exactly?
For quick reference, a signed affidavit form must include the following:
- Affiant: the individual signing the affidavit and swearing the information is true.
- 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 for the purpose of proving in court that a claim is true, and is typically used in conjunction with witness statements and other corroborating evidence.
Through an affidavit, an individual swears that the information contained within is true to the best of their knowledge.
You’ll commonly find affidavits used in the following situations:
- Proving a relationship to 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 through an affidavit.
Types of Affidavit and Their Meaning
There are a number of different types of affidavits, and each serves a unique purpose.
Here are the following ten most common types of affidavits:
1. Small Estate Affidavit
A common 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 cases where the deceased’s estate is below a certain value (dependent on state law), this affidavit can quickly transfer property to beneficiaries.
Expensive items like vehicles or real estate aren’t usually included in small estate affidavits, as 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 to 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 affidavit is used for multiple purposes — for instance, imagine your hypothetical 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 enrolling his child in public school or applying for in-state tuition rates for college.
Public school placement and tuition are typically determined by your housing zone, 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, chances are 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 important 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.
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. In such an event, you’ll need this affidavit to attest that the deceased person (whose estate you’ve been named executor of) actually lived at their declared primary residence.
This verification is needed in order to efficiently transfer ownership of specific properties like stocks and securities.
6. Financial Affidavit
A financial affidavit, or affidavit of financial disclosure, is used to substantiate an individual’s finances. It contains all relevant information about the person’s current finances like total income, debts, and expenses.
7. Affidavit of Death
When an individual passes away, they often leave behind unfinished tasks which 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 individual’s personal information and date of death in order to efficiently handle any remaining legal or financial affairs.
8. Affidavit of Title
This affidavit is used during real estate transactions, and unlike a quitclaim deed, proves the seller owns a given property and isn’t currently undergoing bankruptcy. If there are any liens 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
Simply put, an affidavit of identity is used to verify that you are who you claim to be. This type of affidavit is most frequently used by banks or other financial institutions to certify your identity. Standard identification documents can be easily falsified (like a driver’s license), so they don’t have strong legal standing in court.
10. Gift Affidavit
This sworn legal document verifies that you’ve voluntarily and willingly transferred ownership of property 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
There are many purposes of an affidavit — 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 type of affidavit.
Having a properly written, signed, and notarized affidavit is a key component of many legal processes — so it’s important to completely understand what an affidavit is before you agree to sign one.