Personal chattels and chattels personal

The John Doe topic leads Mark Liberman at Language Log to a discussion of personal chattels and chattels real in the Irish Senate in 1973.

bq. Mr. Cooney: There is no definition in the Statute or in the parent Act of personal chattels. But “personal chattels” has been for so long a legal term that it now has a certain legal standing. If the Senator wishes I can quote for him a definition from Wharton’s Law Lexicon where “personal chattels” is defined. When the Senator hears the definition he will be quite satisfied that no difficulty will arise in interpreting the Act and deciding what it applies to.

bq. Chattels personal or in a more narrow and more modern sense, “chattels” means movable property or effects which belong personally to the owner and for which if they are injuriously withheld from him he has, in general, no other remedy than by personal action … while a mixed action of ejectment in which the plaintiff could recover the specific property was available in the case of “chattels real”.

I find this discussion a bit confusing. To my mind there is a difference between chattels personal and personal chattels. The Oxford Dictionary of Law confirms this: personal chattels are defined in the Administration of Estates Act 1925 and do not include chattels used for business purposes at the intestate’s death. So chattels personal is a broad property term more or less corresponding to moveable property, part of a system more complex than the division between real and personal property, whereas personal chattels are the chattels personal a person owns, things like toilet articles, bags, umbrella. The Irish Senate appear to be discussing when a fish becomes a personal chattel. Or when it becomes a chattel personal? But they do quote the Administration of Estates Act 1925. If any Irish lawyers are reading this blog, they are offline for a couple of weeks, so I will have to leave it there.

2 thoughts on “Personal chattels and chattels personal

  1. I agree with your differentiation between the coll. personal chattels and leg. chattels personal. I understand Irish follows Eng. & Welsh law v. closely on this. I doubt your differentiation would work for ‘real chattels’. Would reversing the words exclude the idiosyncratic Eng. reading of leaseholds into ‘chattels real’? As far as I know, an Eng. court has never had to deal with a Will of a clever layman/woman reversing either of these personal or real terms.

  2. Well, I think personal chattels is almost a term of art, since it comes up in the Admin. of Estates Act. I can’t envisage a context for real chattels, however. As opposed to virtual chattels, perhaps?
    More specifically to the Irish Senate, can one see a change in status of a fish from the sea to the plate?

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