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What Is Attestation?

Mary McMahon
Updated: Jun 04, 2024

Attestation is the act of bearing witness. It can take a number of different forms in a legal sense. Generally speaking, it refers to an activity in which someone confirms something with a written or oral oath. A simple example of an attestation might be a signature on the bottom of a legal document from a notary public indicating that he or she saw the author write out and sign the document.

In some cases, an attestation is simply a verification that a document was signed in front of witnesses. By signing, the witnesses attest that they saw the document being signed and were aware of the identity of the signatory. They are not, however, attesting to anything in the document itself; the document may be incorrect or improperly filled out, for example, but this is not the responsibility of the people who attested to it.

An attestation can also provide additional information about the signatory. On the attestation clause added to a will, for example, the people who sign indicate that the testator was of sound mind when the will was written, and was thus able to freely make decisions. This is used to support claims that the will is valid. If the witnesses do not confirm that the testator was of sound mind, someone may argue that the will should not be accepted because of doubts about the testator's mental status.

Attestations can also appear in the form of documents providing information which the signatory attests is correct. For example, someone applying for a job may be asked for an attestation letter from a previous employer confirming the dates of employment and pay stated in the employment application. Likewise, an attestation letter may be written by someone as part of an application for professional certification, indicating that she or he has fulfilled the stated requirements.

When someone makes an attestation, she or he is legally liable for whatever is being attested to. People should be careful when they are asked to attest to something to make sure that they understand their liability. If, for example, someone is asked to attest that he or she saw someone signing a legal document, he or she should not provide an attestation for a document which has already been signed. A false attestation can be grounds for liability in court and it is important to remember that attestations, no matter how trivial they might seem, can be used as evidence in court.

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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 anon271918 — On May 29, 2012

Is it necessary to give the date while attesting?

By strawCake — On Jun 16, 2011

@Indemnifyme - That's terrible about the people you helped who were being sued for a false attestation. People should definitely read everything they sign though.

I had to get something notarized recently and the notary made a really big deal out of the fact that I had already signed the document. I actually had to go get another copy and sign it in front of her. It didn't seem like that big of a deal at the time but now I understand why attestation services are so serious about making sure you actually sign the document in front of them. I know if it was my livelihood on the line I would certainly follow the rules!

By indemnifyme — On Jun 14, 2011

This article is correct-certificate attestation is serious business. I've helped more than one customer file a claim on their liability insurance after being sued for false attestation. The person being sued is usually innocent of intentional wrongdoing. They were trying to help out a friend, or signed the document without reading it all the way.

Unfortunately even if you don't intend to hurt anyone making a false attestation can lead to ramifications in court. Good liability insurance can really come in handy in these kinds of situations.

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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