Private seals are rare today, but were common years ago, including wax seals, that were pressed with stamps or signet rings onto sealing wax. Today they are more commonly used in Asian societies, such as the Chinese chop, often made from teak, mahogany, jade or ivory, and typically used with red ink.
Legal documents requiring a signature sometimes also contain the word Seal, seal in brackets [Seal], or the Latin words, Locus Sigilli or [L.S.] near the signature line.
This may refer to a private seal or personal seal, such as a rubber ink stamp, or an embossed seal, a corporate seal, a government seal or a notary seal.
The use of seals dates back to ancient times of the Egyptians and Romans. Seals are mentioned in the Bible with writings “sealed with the king’s ring“. Document scrolls made of parchment were sealed with wax.
Under contract law, and the Law of Sealed Instruments, a sealed document may have additional rights, such as a longer statute of limitations. A contract under seal was a formal contract under Common Law. Many states have passed laws, including the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), that abolish, limit or nullify the use or effect of a private seal.
The phrase “signed, sealed and delivered” refers to a sealed instrument, such as a deed.
Under the old law, a Power of Attorney required a seal on the document, while a Letter of Attorney only required a signature.
Some important documents were sealed by stringing ribbon through several pages and then sealing the ribbon with a wax seal to prevent pages from being added or removed.
Personal seals were used in Colonial America, and by the founding fathers. The personal seal of Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, contained his initials “T J”, encircled by the motto, “Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God“. The motto was suggested by Benjamin Franklin for the Great Seal of the United States but was not used.
The word seal in brackets [Seal] is often used in place of a private seal. If you encounter a document that requires a private seal, seek legal advice for the proper procedure.
Colorado Uniform Commercial Code (UCC)
Colorado UCC § 4-2-203 Seals inoperative. The affixing of a seal to a writing evidencing a contract for sale or an offer to buy or sell goods does not constitute the writing a sealed instrument, and the law with respect to sealed instruments does not apply to such a contract or offer.
Colorado UCC § 4-25-203 Seals inoperative. The affixing of a seal to a writing evidencing a lease contract or an offer to enter into a lease contract does not render the writing a sealed instrument and the law with respect to sealed instruments does not apply to the lease contract or offer.
Update [2019-05-17] added Colorado UCC seals inoperative.