The Legal Language – personal chattels

01 September 2021

Have you ever read something and thought, “I’m not sure what that means” or “is that really correct”? Welcome to our series of quickfire interviews that attempt to unravel those interesting words and phrases.

In this edition, we speak to Wills, Trusts & Estates Partner Rachael Grabovic, who talks to us about the phrase, personal chattels.


What phrase have you chosen and what does it mean?

Personal chattels is a phrase that we frequently use in property, wills and personal estate planning. In the estate planning context, this word is narrowed with the word “personal”. Although most people may have a general idea of what “personal chattels” might mean, they are often surprised by the actual definition. Its meaning as defined in section 5 of the Administration and Probate Act 1958 covers a large variety of items, including; 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.

Why do you like the phrase personal chattels?

I can’t say I like or find this phrase interesting; it is more that I find its definition interesting. It is not a phrase used in everyday life, so I often see a quizzical look on clients’ faces when I ask them are there any specific personal chattels they wish to gift?

We use this phrase in nearly every will we prepare, so I usually have to explain its meaning, most clients find it amusing when I mention carriages, horses and stables. This definition hasn’t changed since the Act was passed in 1958!

When did you first come across the phrase personal chattels in an Estate Planning context?

I first came across the word chattels when I was at University whilst studying property law, however, I didn’t come across the term ‘personal chattels’ until I started drafting wills. When I started drafting wills there were many “old-worldly” words used, some have slowly been replaced but “personal chattels” continues to have a strong hold in this area of law.

Disclaimer: This publication contains comments of a general nature only and is provided as an information service. It is not intended to be relied upon as, nor is it a substitute for specific professional advice. No responsibility can be accepted by Rigby Cooke Lawyers or the authors for loss occasioned to any person doing anything as a result of any material in this publication.

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