The traditional phrase signed, sealed and delivered refers to the practice of seals; however, attesting witnesses have replaced seals to some extent. Agreements under seal are also called contracts by deed or specialty; in the United States, a specialty is enforceable without consideration. In some jurisdictions, specialties have a liability limitation period of double that of a simple contract and allow for a third party beneficiary to enforce an undertaking in the deed, thereby overcoming the doctrine of privity. Specialties, as a form of contract, are bilateral and can therefore be distinguished from covenants, which, being also under seal, are unilateral promises.
At common law, to be valid and enforceable, a deed must meet several requirements:
It must state on its face that it is a deed, using wording like "This Deed..." or "executed as a deed".
It must indicate that the instrument itself conveys some privilege or thing to someone.
The grantor must have the legal ability to grant the thing or privilege, and the grantee must have the legal capacity to receive it.
It must be executed by the grantor in presence of the prescribed number of witnesses, known as instrumentary witnesses (this is known as being in solemn form).
In some jurisdictions, a seal must be affixed to it. Originally, affixing seals made persons parties to the deed and signatures optional, but seals are now outdated in most jurisdictions, so the signatures of the grantor and witnesses are primary.
It must be delivered to (delivery) and, in some jurisdictions, accepted by the grantee (acceptance).
Conditions attached to the acceptance of a deed are known as covenants. A deed indented or indenture is one executed in two or more parts according to the number of parties, which were formerly separated by cutting in a curved or indented line known as the chirograph. A deed poll is one executed in one part, by one party, having the edge polled or cut even, and includes simple grants and appointments.