What is an Affidavit in the Legal Sense?

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An affidavit is a sworn, written statement made under oath by the person signing the statement. The identity of the person making the statement and the contents of the statement comprising the affidavit are usually verified by a notary public, who will place his or her notary seal on the written statement. Because it is a verified statement made under oath, an affidavit is essentially your promise that the information contained in your affidavit is true and correct, and it is the equivalent of testimony before a court. Accordingly, if you are ever making any statement in an affidavit, you should be particularly concerned about the accuracy of your statement and you should make sure that you simply telling the truth.

The purpose of an affidavit is usually for use in court proceedings to provide factual evidence or to prove up documents, records or other evidence. Presenting testimony in affidavits is particularly useful when a witness is unavailable to come to court, the testimony is of such a nature that it does not present well for live testimony, or when it is necessary to preserve the resources and time of the court. In other instances, affidavits may be attached to pleadings, motions or other filings made by attorneys’ in court to establish various facts or in support of the legal arguments of the parties.

In your everyday dealings, you probably have signed numerous affidavits without even realizing it. For example, when you provide a notarized document to a traffic court, or even when you sign a real estate document before a notary, you are effectively presenting an affidavit. In other words, you are verifying that your statement – whatever it may be – is true and correct. For instance, in traffic court, you may be attesting under oath that you have not taken defensive driving within the past twelve months or that you have completed your deferral period. In the real estate context, for the most part, you are probably attesting to the fact that you are signing the document for the purposes described within the document.

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