Understanding Affidavits

An affidavit is a sworn or affirmed statement made before a notary public or any public official who has the authority to administer oaths. It is made under penalty of perjury, and the official must administer an oath or affirmation to the signer(s), witness the signing of the document and certify it by placing his official signature and seal and completing the notarial certificate called a jurat.

Click here (Example of Completing an Affidavit) to view an affidavit sample and instructions for completing it.

The elements of an affidavit include:

1.Venue (this may be at the top or near the notary certificate at the end)
2.Preamble (this indicates the statement was made under oath or affirmation and may contain the name(s) of the signer(s) and other details)
3.Date that the statement is being made
4.Body (the statement being made by the signer)
5.Signature(s) of the signer(s)
6.Notary certificate - jurat in short or long-form with the date of the notarization
7.Notary's signature
8.Notary's seal (unless your state does not require or allow one)
9.Notary's commission expiration date

Sometimes, the notary is presented with a document that is clearly an affidavit (as it includes all the elements listed above), except that it has a notary acknowledgment certificate instead of a jurat. In such a situation, it is a best practice to ask the signer to check with the document preparer (if they are available) to determine what notarial act they want the notary to perform (administer an oath/affirmation or take an acknowledgment). If the document preparer is not available and the signer is unable to decide which notarial act the notary must perform, the notary may decline to notarize.

When you are presented with a document that lacks a pre-printed notarial certificate, if the body of the document states that the signer swore or affirmed or made the statement under oath, you can, without delving into the unauthorized practice of law, point this out to the signer. While it may seem obvious that a jurat should be the only choice for a notarial certificate on a sworn statement, the signer may prefer to acknowledge rather than swear or affirm. Let the signer decide which certificate to add if there is no pre-printed notary certificate.

This article is part of the series that began with What Does a Notary Public Do?

-- Tim Gatewood is a Contributing Writer with the American Association of Notaries

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