There are many occasions in life when you may find yourself needing to prepare an affidavit, or statement of facts. While an affidavit can be prepared for you by an attorney, generally speaking, most affidavits are simple to prepare on your own. In many cases, you can begin the process by acquiring a sample or template, and then customizing it to meet your specific circumstances.
The General Affidavit Form
An affidavit is simply a written statement of facts that the person making the statement, commonly known as the affiant, has sworn to be true. The main thing that sets the affidavit apart from other statements or declarations is that it is notarized. This means you have signed it in front of a notary public.
Different states may have different affidavit requirements, yet there are many variations in the format of your affidavit that should be acceptable, regardless of the state in which you reside. This article discusses how to fill out a general affidavit form if you reside in Illinois, but you will find that the information contained here is generally applicable in most states. If you reside in another state, a bit of state-specific research should provide you with any additional information you may need.
Purpose of a General Affidavit Form
One of the most common uses of a general affidavit form is for court cases. Because the affidavit requires the affiant to swear under oath that the facts as stated in the document are true, affidavits are like a written form of court testimony. And, like court testimony, which is conducted under oath, lying or making misrepresentations in an affidavit has serious consequences, such as the potential of a perjury charge.
There also are other uses for affidavits outside of the courtroom, such as for the purpose of transacting business. For example, if you are selling property, the buyer may ask that you provide them with an affidavit stating that you are the owner of that property.
Whether you are filing your affidavit as part of a court proceeding, or you need it to complete a business deal, when you sign an affidavit, you are basically providing assurance to the court or to the other party that the facts as you've stated them in the affidavit are true.
General Affidavit Format
There are a few general rules for filling out an affidavit form, regardless of the state in which you reside:
- Avoid wordiness. While it's true that this is your opportunity to tell your version of the story, it is much better for your affidavit to be short and to the point. Consider the time of the person who will be reading your affidavit. Whether it is a judge, a clerk, or the person on the other end of your business deal, most people do not have a lot of time to spend reading a long, detailed affidavit, so it's best to be as brief as possible, while still stating the facts you want to state.
- Write only about things that are within your personal knowledge. An affidavit is not the place to state your opinions, assumptions, or things you have heard to be true from other people. State only the facts that you know to be true, based on what you have seen or experienced.
- Be truthful. It might be tempting to lean on the truth a little to shine a better light on the state of your affairs, but an affidavit is a document you swear to under oath. Lying or making misrepresentations on an affidavit can therefore expose you to the same consequences as lying in court.
- Use "I" statements. Affidavits are written in first person format, which means you should begin your sentences with "I". For example, in an affidavit for a court case, you might write, "I was standing on the corner of Boulevard and Vine when I saw a dark blue car going through a red light."
- Number the paragraphs. Each paragraph in your affidavit should be numbered, beginning with the number 1 and continuing until the notarization section, which is not numbered.
Filling Out a General Affidavit Form in Illinois
Once you've obtained a basic general affidavit form template, the process of customizing it for your needs is not too difficult. The following information should be included in your form:
- The date on which the affidavit is signed, along with the city and state in which it is signed
- Pertinent information about yourself, such as your name, address, occupation, and any other similar identifying information
- Your statement or statements of fact; each separate statement of fact should be in its own paragraph
- A notarization section that will be signed and dated by the notary public
Once you have prepared the general affidavit form, but before you've signed it, bring it to the notary public. It's essential that you bring the unsigned form, as you must sign your affidavit in the presence of the notary public. Once the form is notarized, you can then file it with the court or deliver it to the other party to your transaction.