To close records by any type of fastening that must be broken before access can be obtained. An impression upon wax, wafer, or some other substance capable of being impressed.
The use of seals began at a time when writing was not common, but when every person of means possessed a coat-of-arms or other distinctive device. Great significance was attached to the use of seals as a means of distinguishing persons. With the spread of education, the signature on an instrument became more important than the seal, and seals lost their former dignity and importance.
Modern judicial decisions minimize or eliminate the distinctions between sealed and unsealed instruments, and most statutes have abolished the use of seals. Other statutes abolishing the use of private seals do not make sealed instruments unlawful, but merely render the seals ineffective. In jurisdictions that still recognize the use of seals, the seal can assume the form of a wax impression, an impression made on paper, or a gummed sticker attached to the document. The letters L.S., an abbreviation for the Latin phrase locus sigilli, meaning "the place of the seal," can also be used in place of a material seal, as can the word seal or a statement to the effect that the document is to take effect as a sealed instrument.
Seals are currently used for authenticating documents, such as birth and marriage records and deeds to real property. They are also used to authenticate signatures witnessed by a NOTARY PUBLIC and in formalizing corporate documents.
In regard to contracts, at COMMON LAW a promise under seal was enforceable without the necessity of legal consideration—something of value—either because the seal was a substitute for consideration or because the existence of consideration was conclusively presumed. Although most states have abolished seals, some states have provided by statute that a seal raises a presumption of consideration. Article 2 of the UNIFORM COMMERCIAL CODE (UCC)—a body of law adopted by the states to govern commercial transactions—has eliminated the seal as consideration in commercial sales to which the act is applicable. At one time, the statute of limitations—the prescribed period during which legal proceedings must be instituted—was longer for an action brought on a contract under seal than for one not under seal.