What Does Locus Sigilli Mean?

"Locus Sigilli", literally meaning the place of the seal, is a Latin term denoting the area on a contract where the seal is to be affixed. The Locus Sigilli often appears on copies of documents in brackets. This signification was used to replace actual seals on documents.

Key Takeaways

  • "Locus Sigilli", Latin for the place of the seal, denotes the area on a contract where the seal is to be affixed.
  • By the 19th century, embossed or impressed seals, and the use of the initials L.S., replaced wax seals in most jurisdictions.
  • The abbreviation L.S. may appear on notarial certificates to indicate where the official seal should be affixed—or to let a signatory know where to affix their signature.

Understanding Locus Sigilli

A seal is an official mark on a contract or document to show that it has been certified, officially approved, and has legal force. A contract under seal indicates the parties' intention to be legally bound by the terms contained within them.

Historically, under the common law, a seal could take the place of consideration given in a contract. In theory, contracts under seal are more enforceable than contracts not bearing a seal, although laws do vary from state to state, and in many places, there may be no legal difference between a sealed or unsealed contract.

In modern law, there is a reduced distinction between documents that have this designation and original copies that bear an official seal. The Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) has mandated that this distinction is irrelevant for the sales of goods. However, for many documents, such as birth certificates and marriage certificates, an official seal is necessary to certify the document and give it legal weight.

Company seals tend to state its name, date, and state of incorporation.

Examples of Locus Sigilli

The abbreviation L.S. may appear on notarial certificates to let the notary or other official know where the official seal should be affixed. It can also be used to let a signatory know where to affix their signature.

If an embossed seal is used, the seal should be affixed over the letters. On the other hand, if a rubber stamp seal is used, it should be affixed next to, not over, the abbreviation—notaries increasingly use rubber stamps because their print is easier to microfilm for official recording.

History of Locus Sigilli

The term Locus Sigilli, or the abbreviation L.S., has been used to replace the even older practice of affixing a wax seal to contracts or other documents, by means of authentication. Historically, the use of a wax seal offered evidence that the owner of the seal was a party to the contract, as the signet ring or other engraved object used to imprint the wax was widely known to identify its owner.

The wax seal further removed the need for consideration in a contract, until modern reforms in contract law made this principle obsolete. The seal further acted as a defense against fraud, modifications to a contract after the fact, or the inclusion of an undisclosed principal in the contract.

In the past, courts would only accept a seal pressed in wax. By the 19th century, this requirement had gradually disappeared. In its place, it became acceptable to use other methods to seal a document, including printing the words Locus Sigilli, often abbreviated as L.S., on its own or in a circle.

By the 19th century, embossed or impressed seals had replaced wax seals in most jurisdictions, including the use of the initials L.S. in place of a seal. In modern usage, an embossed paper disk, an impression in the paper itself, or a stamped-ink seal has replaced the wax seal, with the initials L.S. commonly indicating where the seal should be placed.