What are personal chattels? Do they apply to you when writing your Will?

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What are ‘personal chattels’ and how does this term apply to you?

Personal chattels are your personal possessions. You may think of them as the contents of your house – furniture, paintings, photographs, jewellery, collectibles and so forth. However the formal definition is wide ranging and includes vehicles, garden effects and also pets.

Although sometimes of little financial value, it is often the distribution of these assets which are of most importance to you. It can result in a very long and detailed Will and lead to the need to update your Will on a regular basis as you acquire more items or change your mind as to what you want to happen to them.

You may prefer to state that your personal items should be distributed in accordance with a “Letter of Wishes”. Although not legally binding, the letter can set out what you want to happen to your personal items – be that a specific list of gifts or perhaps just some general indications such as letting friends choose a keepsake or two – and would give your Executors guidance as to what to do.

More importantly the letter does not form part of your actual Will and, so you can write it yourself and update it easily and as often as you wish without the need to formally update your Will, saving time and money.

So what can you include in your “Letters of Wishes”?

Under section 55(1)(x), Administration of Estates Act 1925, personal chattels were defined as ‘carriages, horses, stable furniture and effects, motor cars and accessories, garden effects, domestic animals, plate, plated articles, linen, china, glass, books, pictures, prints, furniture, jewellery, articles of house or personal use or ornament, musical or scientific instruments and apparatus, wines, liquors and consumable stores, but do not include any chattels used at the death of the intestate person for business purposes, nor money or securities for money.’

As you can see, most of the above items are no longer relevant in today’s world so as of 1st October 2014, the definition of personal chattels was modernised to reflect what people own now.

Personal chattels are now defined as tangible moveable property but not money or securities for money, property used by the deceased at his death solely or mainly for business purpose, and property held by the deceased at death solely as an investment (section 3, Inheritance and Trustees Powers Act 2014).

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