What are Personal Chattels?

You may have heard of the term "personal chattels”. These words have a specific legal definition that will soon be changed by the Inheritance and Trustees' Powers Act 2014 for estates from October 2014.

The current legal meaning of "personal chattels” is quite old-fashioned because it was defined in 1925!! The definition itself shows how much things have changed over time. The old definition includes personal items such as: carriages, horses, stable furniture and effects (not used for business purposes), motor cars and accessories (not used for business purposes), garden effects, domestic animals, plate, plated articles, linen, china, glass, books, pictures, prints, furniture, jewellery, articles of household or personal use or ornament, musical and scientific instruments and apparatus, wines, liquors and consumable stores, but it excludes any items used by the deceased for business purposes, nor money or securities for money.

The new legal definition has been simplified so that "personal chattels” will soon simply mean: tangible, moveable property. It will still exclude property which consists of money or securities for money, items used solely or mainly for business purposes, or property held solely as an investment.

You may wonder how the change affects Wills that have already been made. The new law says that if a Will or Codicil is executed before the new law comes into effect, then the Will or Codicil is to be read as referring to the old definition of "personal chattels” (unless of course there is a contrary intention), irrespective of the date of death.