We all frequently sign documents, contracts, and so forth, with our signature including (SEAL) or (L.S.) at the end of the signature line. What does this mean? Here is the answer (under Georgia law). Each state often differs as to the legal effect of (SEAL).
Under Georgia law at O.C.G.A. § 9‑3‑23, a document you sign under seal extends the statute of limitations to 20 years. That is, 20 years for the party to assert claims against you as to the transaction or contract covered by your signature. And, on the flip side, 20 years for you to assert claims against the other party if that party also signs under seal. By contrast, contracts under Georgia law are generally subject to a 6-year statute of limitations. Thus, the longer 20-year extension can be good or bad, depending on whether you benefit or are burdened by the extended period.
The second effect of a document signed under (SEAL) is a presumption that the parties did exchange the consideration covered by the agreement. In other words, one party cannot later assert, without having the burden to overcome the presumption, that the parties did not in fact exchange the consideration set forth in the document at the time of signing the document. See Autrey v. UAP/GA AG Chem. Inc., 230 Ga. App. 767 (1998).
Technically, the (SEAL) is effective only if two requirements are met: (1) The word ‘seal’ has to be in the body of the document (typically at the end just before the signature blocks), such as “signed under hand and seal, this _____ day of January, 2011”; and (2) the end of the signature line itself must include “(SEAL)” or “(L.S.)”. See, for example, Chastain v. L. Moss Music Co., 83 Ga. App. 570 (1951).
So, does this blog information have any practical benefit?
Yes, one needs to think for a moment about whether to sign documents under seal. Two, Georgia law allows a party to strike-thru the (SEAL) so as to not sign under seal, even though other parties on the same document don’t make the strike-thru. In other words, you have a choice. Don’t always sign under seal without at least being aware of its effect.