Affidavits are legal documents that are frequently used by attorneys and courts to settle or try a legal action. Because these documents are being used to affect the rights of others, the affiant's execution of the document must be witnessed by a notary public with the notary public certifying that this requirement has been met.
An affidavit is a legal document that states facts about a legal matter that are within the affiant's (i.e., the person signing the affidavit) personal knowledge or based upon information and belief as to the facts. Affidavits are written voluntarily and out of the courtroom. As such, the affiant is not subject to cross-examination while writing the statement, but may be questioned about the statement at trial. An affidavit is signed under the penalty of perjury meaning that the affiant, despite being outside of a courtroom, still has a legal and moral obligation to tell the truth.
Affidavits in California must not be signed until a notary public is present. The main reason why California requires affidavit notarization is to confirm that the person who is signing the document is, in fact, who he purports to be. This is why the affiant must bring personal identification containing a photograph with him to the notary public's office. The notary public will confirm the affiant's identity, the affiant will sign and date the affidavit, then the notary will complete the notary form that must be included on all affidavits.
At the bottom of an affidavit is the notary form. This paragraph consists of basic information, such as the state and city where the affidavit was signed, as well as a statement that the affiant personally appeared in front of the notary and signed the document. The notary's acknowledgment is signed under penalty of perjury, but not to the affiant's statement -- only that the notary personally verified the affiant's identity and witnessed the document's execution. The notary will then emboss the affidavit with a notary seal.
In general, affidavits are written in sequential paragraphs. The document should be labelled at the top (e.g., Affidavit of Jane Smith) and the first paragraph should state that affiant is over the age of 18, is stating facts based on personal knowledge and could testify to the facts competently if need be. The affiant's state of residence should be provided. Thereafter, each paragraph should state the relevant facts of the matter known to the affiant. Before the signature block, the affiant must state that he is signing the document under penalty of perjury and that, to the best of his knowledge, his statements are true.