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What is an Affidavit?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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An affidavit is a written declaration that is accompanied by an oath or affirmation indicating that the contents are true. Someone may make one in connection with a court case, or it may be an important supporting document in something like a mortgage application. Many forms are also affidavits, since they include a line indicating that the person has completed the form to the best of his or her knowledge, and that deliberately erroneous information can result in a perjury charge.

The word has been directly lifted from Latin, and it means that people have “pledged their faith” in full knowledge of the law. It is an entirely voluntary document, and no member of the court can force someone to give one, although the court may require someone to give a deposition. A deposition is different, because although both are written statements, a deposition includes cross examination.

The contents of an affidavit reflect the personal knowledge of the declarant. Someone will not be penalized for failing to include information that he or she did not know about. This personal knowledge may also include personal opinion in some cases, although it must be clearly stated as opinion rather than fact. Anyone may offer such a statement, so long as he or she has the mental capacity to understand the seriousness of the oath. In some cases, someone may offer one on behalf of someone else, as might be the case with the guardian of someone who is mentally ill.

In most cases, the document is witnessed by a notary public or another qualified official, such as a court clerk. Notaries public specialize in witnessing legal documents for people, usually for a nominal fee. The signature of the witness indicates that the affiant has pledged that the information is true, and that he or she understands that importance of the oath. The document may be used as evidence in court, or it may be submitted with supporting materials for things like social services.

When someone offers an affidavit, he or she should take care to read it over if it has been recorded by someone else. Since the document is accompanied with a legally binding oath, it is important to make sure that the facts are clearly and accurately represented. If there are errors in the document, they should be corrected before it is signed, whether or not this is convenient for the officials taking down the information and witnessing it.

MyLawQuestions is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a MyLawQuestions researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon954428 — On Jun 01, 2014

My parents sold their house in July 2007 for $130,000 to my half-sister and her husband, and they made payments of $700 month, for only six months because my father passed away. My parents made a will that when they both passed away, they would pay me only $10,000 only $400 a month and I would release a lien. My dad passed away in November 2007. Well, my half-sister changed and filed in court an affidavit that she was my dad's daughter which she is not, and made correction to the home's sale date that it was sold to them in Jan 2008, but I have copies of the wills I plan on probating, so she lied. That's wrong.

By parmnparsley — On Jul 28, 2010

General affidavit forms are available free from multiple online sources. Most of the forms will meet state or federal requirements for an affidavit form, and the user can edit the affidavit to suit a particular need.

Free access to these forms makes it possible for individuals to gather legal documentation in instances where a witness statement is necessary. You could use a general affidavit to get a co-worker or witness statement about a harassment or discrimination complaint. You can also use an affidavit to certify the pedigree of an animal, or the authenticity of a transaction. These are just examples, but affidavits can be used for any situation where an official statement is necessary.

By ValleyFiah — On Jul 28, 2010

You can have a notary public notarize your affidavit form at your local bank. Most banks will allow customers that hold accounts at that bank to notarize documents free of cost, just be prepared to sit through a 10-15 minute upsell on new banking products.

By Tufenkian925 — On Jul 27, 2010

The core Latin word from which affidavit derives is "fide," which means "faith" and is in many of our modern English words, such as "fidelity," "perfidious," "fiduciary," and even "faith," among many others. This root comes from the Proto-Indo-European root "bheudh-" which means "to be or make aware," from which the modern English word "bid" is derived.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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