Reply – Re: Seal/Specialty/own consideration, a promise IS trust property - Waters '...
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Re: Seal/Specialty/own consideration, a promise IS trust property - Waters 'Law of Trusts in Canada' text
— by Fathers son Fathers son
Until modern statutory reforms in contract law, a seal was widely recognised by courts in common law jurisdictions as removing the need for consideration (value) in a contract. This reflects classical contract theory, in which consideration was viewed as a formal aspect of a contract, so that a seal could be considered an alternative form. A seal was not per se a type of consideration, but rather raised a presumption of consideration (courts have varied in their opinions of whether this presumption was rebuttable). See, e.g., Marine Contractors Co. Inc. v. Hurley, 365 Mass. 280, 285-86 (1974).

The rationale for this special treatment of sealed contracts can be understood in terms of the legal formalities that are associated with sealing a document with a wax seal. Firstly, the following of the legal formality of affixing a seal to a document was evidence of the existence of a contract. Secondly, the need to use a seal – widely known to have legal significance – served to impress upon the parties the significance of the agreement being made. This element of deliberation is important in the context of many legal theories for why donative promises are not generally enforceable in the same way as contracts: there is a concern that donative promises are sometimes made under pressure (for example, from family members) without adequate deliberation, which explains why a requirement for the legal formality of the seal might substitute for consideration to give enforceability to donative promises. Thirdly, the following of the legal formalities through the use of a seal demonstrated beyond doubt that a legal transaction was intended by the parties.[1]

In addition to these three abstract reasons, there may also have been a more practical reason, namely that the object used to imprint the wax, usually an engraved signet ring, identified its owner, thereby providing evidence that the owner of the seal was party to the contract.

Besides substituting for consideration, other consequences of the seal that, at least historically, have held include:[2]

even payment did not discharge a sealed contract, if the instrument itself was not physically destroyed.[3]
fraud was not permitted as a defence to a sealed contract
subsequent modifications to a sealed contract were not binding except where the modifications were also under seal.
a principal not designated as such in the contract (undisclosed principal) could not be connected to the contract if it was sealed.[4]