If you go into court to give testimony, you raise your hand and swear an oath that the things you say are the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The paper equivalent is called an affidavit. In an affidavit, you write out a statement and swear under penalty of perjury before a notary or an officer of the court that you believe the facts provided are the truth.
What Is an Affidavit?
An affidavit is a legal document, whether or not it is used in court. It is a sworn statement you make before a notary to present information. The information must be either based on your personal knowledge or on your "information and belief." If you make an affidavit based on information and belief, you have to state where you got the information and why you believe it to be true.
Different states have different rules and procedures relating to affidavits, but these are loosely applied. There is no standard format or language required for an affidavit. The document is valid as long as it meets a few basic legal requirements. These include a sworn statement that the person making the affidavit believes in the accuracy of the information.
Read More: How to File an Affidavit
Preparing an Affidavit
You can use a form affidavit or prepare your own. A form affidavit usually has blanks where you insert your name, address and date. After that, it has numbered paragraphs where you set out the facts you want to relate, followed by an oath that the facts are true to the best of your knowledge, and a signature space. There should also be a space for a notary. Make sure you wait to sign the affidavit until you're actually in front of the notary; she needs to see you sign it before she can notarize it.
If you create your own affidavit, you can set it up in the same way. Remember that the facts you provide in the affidavit should be stated clearly and definitely. Leave out conclusions or unnecessary language. When an affidavit is based on information and belief, you have to set out the source of the information and why you believe it to be accurate. This lets the court draw its own conclusions about the information in the affidavit.
Consequences of an Affidavit
You are strictly responsible for the accuracy of the statement you make in your affidavit. If it turns out that you made false statements, you can be criminally prosecuted for perjury.
To complete an affidavit, you need to give your name, write out facts you know from your personal knowledge, and sign the statement under penalty of perjury.
Teo Spengler earned a JD from U.C. Berkeley Law School. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an MA and an MFA in English/writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.