Should have put a name on it! How to manage your personal belongings in your will
When preparing your Will you might not have considered who your personal belongings (also known as chattels) should go to but, depending on what you own, it could be important.
Personal belongings aren’t as easy to split up between family members and friends as cash so they need clear instructions as to their distribution. If an item is particularly important to your family, more than one person may claim that it should be left to them and without clear instructions this could cause a difficult family disagreement.
Your personal belongings include the contents of your house, garden and your car, so it’s likely to be a pretty extensive list!
You might be happy for your personal belongings to be auctioned and sold however, you’re likely to have sentimental items that you’d want to have kept in the family and cherished. Such things could include; engagement and wedding rings, family photo albums and portraits or even half a table, which I was left by my Great Aunt which had been carved by a relative (it was a whole table at one time and I haven’t tracked down the other half yet)! You might even have personal belongings that you would like to donate to a charity or a museum, such as books or antiques.
Personal belongings might also include useful items. In the final Harry Potter book, The Deathly Hallows, Dumbledore leaves specific instructions in his Will about his personal belongings:
These were items which Dumbledore knew would help them in their mission to track down Horcruxes. It’s unlikely you’ll be leaving instructions to find Horcruxes but it makes the point!
Likewise, if you want your personal belongings sold, you might not want your residuary beneficiary to receive the proceeds and might prefer for another beneficiary or charity to receive them.
Clearly there is a lot to think about but it is an area that is often overlooked and it can really help the executors if there are clear instructions. These can either be included in your Will or, if you have the right wording included in the Will, by way of a Letter of Wishes or Memorandum of Chattels. This avoids any confusion and family disagreements, especially if more than one person is claiming that the deceased told them during their lifetime that the item was for them.
Published on 29 January 2021