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Scrivener's Affidavit Explained: Correcting Document Errors with Ease

Editorial Team
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Updated May 16, 2024
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What Is a Scrivener's Affidavit?

Navigating the complexities of legal documentation, a scrivener's affidavit emerges as a critical tool for rectifying minor mishaps. According to the American Bar Association, errors such as typographical mistakes or misspelled names occur frequently in legal documents, necessitating a straightforward correction mechanism. A scrivener's affidavit, sworn under oath and typically notarized, addresses these small but significant errors without the need for more cumbersome amendments. However, it's important to note that for more substantial changes, such as altering contract terms or compensation amounts, a different legal approach is required. This affidavit serves as a testament to the importance of attention to detail in legal proceedings, ensuring accuracy and integrity in the documentation process.

A scrivener is a clerk or copyist who is hired to write or prepare written instruments, and a scrivener’s error is a term that refers to the errors made when preparing those documents. The errors are often made by mistake or inadvertence, and they are minor and unintentional. A scrivener’s affidavit, sometimes referred to as an affidavit of correction or affidavit of error, is used to correct those errors. The alternative would be to re-execute the document, which is often not possible once it has been recorded. The affidavit is often recorded with the document it corrects in order to put the public on notice of the error and the correction.

Some errors in legal documents are initially missed by the parties at the time of signing or preparation. When they discover those errors at a later date, it’s easy to fix them with a scrivener’s affidavit. The alternative would be to alter the original documents, which might be burdensome to one or both parties. For example, in real estate transactions in which the paperwork is lengthy, it would cost less and be easier to manage if one of the parties were to execute a scrivener’s affidavit to correct a misspelling or omission of an initial on a deed. The main piece of criteria for using the affidavit is that the error does not try to make a material change to the document it seeks to correct, because it often is inadequate to meet the statutory requirements for executing the original document.

Regions often have a scrivener’s affidavit form for a recorded document that leaves blanks for the affiant to fill out. The forms are often included in the applicable statute or given by the government representative who is the custodian of those records. Individuals can also find templates of affidavits for documents that are not recorded in various legal software packages or free on the Internet.

What Is a Scrivener's Error Affidavit?

Mortgage companies and attorneys use a scrivener’s affidavit to clarify minor errors unintentionally made on a legal document. Missing items such as a suffix to a name, marital status, a middle initial, or a lot number of an address may be necessary to clarify ownership. In these cases, the document preparer can file a scrivener’s affidavit detailing the updated information. The original documents remain as written, but the scrivener’s error affidavit explains the correction.

What Is the Difference Between a Scrivener's Error Affidavit and a Deed Correction?

Sometimes documents contain much bigger mistakes that an affidavit cannot fix. In real estate, if a purchaser’s or seller’s name is incorrect, the document preparer should file a deed correction. Some other reasons real estate transactions may require a deed correction are:

  • Wrong name listed as seller or buyer
  • Missing description of the property
  • Incorrect address of the land
  • The purchase price of the estate is incorrect

A deed correction requires signatures of all parties and remains with the original documents. This process is not as simple as a scrivener’s affidavit but is less time-consuming than filing a new deed.

When Is a New Deed Required?

Sometimes people want to make significant changes to a deed or other legal documents. These changes can not be completed with a scrivener’s affidavit or a deed correction and may require filing a new deed instead. If either party wants to add or remove property to the deed, they need to replace the original document with a new deed. When transferring property to another owner not listed on the original deed, a new document is also required.

What Can a Scrivener's Affidavit Be Used for?

Many legal transactions require multiple pages of documents. These forms take time to complete, sign and file with the courts. If someone finds a small error or omission after submitting the legal documents, the fastest way to fix the problem is by filing a scrivener’s affidavit.

Lawyers use scrivener’s error affidavits to record minor mistakes in property documentation. Items such as mortgages, deeds, titles for both real estate and personal property, easements and power of attorney have no room for errors. The lawyer, grantor or mortgage company employee who created the original document can use a scrivener’s affidavit to correct minor mistakes. This procedure is more efficient than recreating and refiling the documents.

How Do I Fill Out a Scrivener's Error Affidavit?

Some locations have fill-in-the-blank scrivener’s error affidavits available to make the process efficient. Whether using a prepared form or creating one from scratch, each document should include the following vital information:

  • The date the clerk recorded the document
  • The names of all people that signed the original document
  • The name of the person who prepared the original document and their job title
  • A description of the omission or error
  • The corrected or added information

The affidavit must also include a statement testifying that the signer swears under oath that the information on the document is correct. A notary certifies the forms before submittal to the appropriate department.

Why Is a Scrivener's Affidavit Necessary?

Minor mistakes on real estate documents can cause future title searches problems. When real estate changes hands, the purchaser usually wants to verify that the property belongs to the seller.

With databases full of property records, having accurate details about the land is essential for verifying this information. Middle initials or plot numbers may be all that separates two different properties. If the names or property details do not match as expected, a mortgage company or future owner may not want the real estate because of the title mistake.

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Editorial Team
By Editorial Team
Our Editorial Team, made up of seasoned professionals, prioritizes accuracy and quality in every piece of content. With years of experience in journalism and publishing, we work diligently to deliver reliable and well-researched content to our readers.
Discussion Comments
By anon331374 — On Apr 22, 2013

One additional note: the cost of recording a scrivener's is often much less than the cost of re-recording a corrected version of the original document. Not only do you not need to bother the signers to fix minor mistakes, but there can be hundreds of dollars in difference in the fees associated.

You can check the fee schedule for your local county; Scrivener's fees are typically filed under miscellaneous documents or miscellaneous deeds and are only a few pages vs. a mortgage that might be anywhere from 9-18 or so (there is often an additional charge per page recorded).

By anon331371 — On Apr 22, 2013

Scrivener's Affidavits are not signed by all parties. The preparer of the original document, most often the mortgage lender in the case of home loans, prepares a smaller document attesting that an error was made and states the correction required.

Typical errors are minor typos (account numbers, name spellings, etc) or other miscellaneous corrections (mortgage did not include legal description, Notary did not complete the county section of the signing/Notary page, etc). This document is essentially a statement of good faith and if the changes indicated were unreasonable, they may be rejected by the county.

@browncoat: Just because spellcheck programs exist does not mean that people use them. Before spellcheck programs, we had dictionaries. So long as we have language written by humans, we will have human error.

By KoiwiGal — On Jun 10, 2012
@browncoat - There is another way to change the document if they need to, by resubmitting it. I imagine that a scrivener's affidavit is still run by all the interested parties and that they have to sign off on it before it can be put into practice. So if there are any word switches that could affect the terms of the document, which would be quite an extraordinary coincidence, they would have to be favorable enough for someone to want to keep them in there so that they will contest the affidavit letter.

Generally all the people who are involved in this kind of process are doing it willingly, like in a house sale. I guess it's conceivable that there could be a case where someone protests a scriveners affidavit in order to halt a legal process but I've never heard of it happening and I'm not sure that it can happen, really.

By browncoat — On Jun 09, 2012
I wonder where they would draw the line with this. I mean, I can see that it's only supposed to be used for very small changes that are to do with spelling or other minor mistakes.

But with the spellcheck programs that people use these days, most of the time the spelling error would have been picked up if it was obvious. So, most likely the scribe had accidentally entered one word when she meant to enter a different word.

And that could have serious legal connotations. But, if you used a scrivener's affidavit to change something which isn't a spelling mistake, and actually might change the terms of the contract, would that be going beyond how it should be used?

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