Don’t get your Chattels in a twist!

July 27, 2017

We’ve all seen the Only Fools and Horses episode where Del Boy finds the £6.2m vase in the garage. If only, this time next year we could be millionaires… Alas, the rest of us are unlikely to be quite so lucky when sifting through the personal chattels we’ve been left in a Will.


So what is a chattel anyway? Well, prior to 1 October 2014, the statutory definition was a long list of items such as pictures, prints, furniture and jewellery, horses, carriages, motor cars and even domestic animals. I wonder if Paws the cat realises she’s a chattel? On 1 October 2014 a new definition came into effect and defines chattels as:


…tangible movable property but not:


  • Money or securities for money

  • Property used by the deceased at his death solely or mainly for business purposes

  • Property held by the deceased at death solely as an investment

In every day terms you could think of it as the contents of your home plus any vehicles. Typically, they would have a greater sentimental value than actual monetary worth. Actually, they can have a practical value to a beneficiary too. Imagine if a person is married but left all their chattels to their best friend. The surviving spouse would have to go out and buy a new sofa, TV, cups, plates. You get the picture (or not if someone else gets the chattels)


If there was no living spouse you might think deciding who to leave them to should be fairly straightforward. Let’s imagine then an example where there are children, and the Will says, ‘I give everything equally to my children.’ That’s usually what someone making a Will might want, but now the Executor has the tricky job of deciding who gets the prized record collection and who gets the diamond eternity ring.


Of course, a Will can contain specific gifts, and it’s a good idea to talk to those you’re leaving behind when making your Will, so you can get an understanding if someone would like to receive a particular item. William Shakespeare famously left Anne Hathaway his ‘second best bed.’ I’m not sure who got the best one but in Shakespeare’s time it was pretty common to keep the ‘best bed’ in a room downstairs to show visitors how well you were doing. The ‘second best’ one therefore was likely to be the one he shared with Anne so perhaps she wasn’t too miffed after all. And in any case, she also got the furniture to match.


Today, and in most cases it makes practical sense to do so, many people leave their personal chattels to just one person. That person could then of course decide how to divide them. Either way, dealing with personal chattels after a loved one dies can be an emotional and difficult matter so it really is worth taking care over them, and considering a specific gift if you want particular items to have specific destinations.


Closing tip, look out for any vases!


This information provided in this article is not intended to constitute legal advice and each relationship breakdown requires careful consideration in our view by a fully qualified Solicitor before decisions are made and before you embark on a certain course of action.


Nino Cuffaro – Wills, Trust and Probate


T: 020 7183 1485

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