Lifetime Planning and Wills specialist, Jenny Greenland, explains the meaning of the term ‘personal chattels’, and ways of dealing with them in your Will.
Our team are available on 01225 755656, or by email. Alternatively, you can complete the Contact Form at the foot of this page.
What are chattels?
The law can rightly be accused of being a little archaic at times. That could certainly have been a charge levelled at the definition of the term ‘personal chattels’ before a change in the law in 2014. Until then, for almost ninety years, personal chattels had been 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”
Of course, any or all of these articles, should you happen to possess them, would still fall within the definition of your personal chattels, which are now simply defined as:
“tangible movable property, other than any such property which—
consists of money or securities for money, or
was used at the death of the intestate solely or mainly for business purposes, or
was held at the death of the intestate solely as an investment”
This definition is broad, and when considering personal chattels in the context of writing or amending your Will, it includes your car, furniture, children’s trampoline – and your pets, as well as more personal items such as jewellery and collectables.
How do I deal with personal chattels in my Will?
When writing a Will, understandably, we tend to focus on personal chattels with a higher monetary value and/or sentimental value, and it’s quite usual to make specific mention of a few such items. However, in terms of the rest of our possessions, most of us would like to avoid a long and detailed Will, which is likely to require updating regularly as we acquire more belongings or change our mind as to what we would like to happen to them.
Instead, most people choose to give their executors total discretion as to what should happen to any personal chattels which are not specifically dealt with in their Will.
Letter of Wishes
You may decide to set out who should receive your personal chattels in a letter of wishes. Although not legally binding, executors often welcome any guidance, practical suggestions and even reassurance that you can offer them in this way. While your executors can choose to ignore any or all of your wishes, most people find it difficult to ignore the deceased completely.
When writing a letter of wishes, remember that if it conflicts with your Will in some respect, your Will is legally binding and takes precedence. Anything that you do not wish to leave to the discretion of your executors – perhaps the destination of a family heirloom – must be dealt with in your Will.
A letter of wishes is never a substitute for a Will, but it does have the advantage of allowing you to update it as often as you wish at little or no expense. But remember, it’s important to store your current letter of wishes with your Will.