What Are Contracts Under Seal?
The concept of signing a document under seal originated in medieval England, when it signaled that the signatory was able to make an enforceable promise. Traditionally, a seal was seen as raising the presumption of consideration in contract common law. Generally speaking, signing under seal makes the contract more formal. “The formality of a promise under seal is an efficient, trustworthy method of channeling a person’s deliberate intent to be legally obligated”. This is because signing under a seal carries with it the presumption of authenticity. However, today, in cases when a contract is not required to be under seal, the fact that it is under seal may be disregarded.
Modern Approach to Seals
The majority of states have now adopted statutes depriving the seal of its binding effect. These statutes differ by state. In Florida and eight other states, for example, the seal remains as presumptive evidence of consideration for executory instruments but has seen its importance and effect lessened. According to Section 68.06 of the Florida Statutes, “All bonds, notes, covenants, deeds, bills of exchange and other written instruments not under seal have the same force and effect as bonds and instruments under seal.”
Some states still extend their statutes of limitations for contracts signed under seal. However, Florida does not. According to Murray v. Wells Fargo Home Mortg., including such language into a contract as “witness my hand and seal,” in the absence of a seal is not enough to make a contract an instrument under seal. It is worth noting that when a seal is attached to the signature of one of the parties but not to that of the other party, the contract becomes a contract under seal only to the one party that attached the seal to its signature. The seal does not attach to the signature of the other party.
What Makes a Will Valid?
Will requirements are governed by state law and, therefore, vary by state. In order to be enforceable by a court, certain mandatory conditions must be met in all states:
- The person making a will (testator) must be at least 18 years of age and of sound mind;
- The testator must sign the will free from duress or coercion;
- The will must be signed in front of two uninterested witnesses. However, it is advisable to check your individual state’s requirements regarding the qualification of witnesses;
- The will must contain a statement attesting that it is your last will and testament.
State laws do not require a will to be notarized. It is also not required to file a will with the state.
Execution of Wills in Florida
According to § 732.502(1)(a) of the Florida Statutes, the testator must sign the will at the end or have his name signed by another person in his presence and at his direction. Although it is not required to have your will notarized, if the will is notarized – it becomes “self-proved”. That means that it may be admitted in court without the will’s witnesses’ testimonies. In the case of a self-proved will, the notary will affix her notary seal to the will.