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Leaving specific items to loved ones in your will

View profile for Leah Woodnott
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Leaving specific items to loved ones in your will

You may have watched a recent episode of the BBC One show, the Repair Shop, where a lady was stunned after finding out a painting that had been passed down to her by her grandparents, was one of the earliest paintings of King Charles II.

Often family members would like to leave heirlooms to their family or friends when they pass away and you can do this formally by putting a will in place. The will would include a chattels clause which would list any specific items that you would like to gift to your loved ones. By leaving a chattels clause in your will, your executors would be bound to follow your instructions.

What is a chattel?

A chattel is an item of tangible or immovable property, such as

  • paintings 
  • photographs
  • jewellery, or
  • cars 

You cannot leave cash gifts as part of a chattels clause – this would be dealt with under a pecuniary legacy clause.

Clearly documenting any specific chattels that you would like to leave to any individuals could prevent a family dispute from arising. In a lot of unfortunate cases, when a person dies without a will, often this ends in family members having disagreements. Often it transpires that the deceased made promises to several people about leaving the same item to each of them, or one person has a sentimental attachment to an item.

How to reduce the chance of a dispute after you pass away

By executing a will and clearly listing any specific items that you would like to leave to any individuals, it reduces the chances that a dispute may arise regarding who receives a family heirloom or sentimental item.

Alternatively, you can write a letter of wishes which accompanies your will and again would detail any chattels that you would like to leave to a loved one. The letter of wishes itself is not a formal part of your will, so you are able to write it yourself and you can update it as many times as you wish. 

The will would make reference to the letter of wishes asking that the executors follow the letter of wishes, but it would not be legally binding on the executors to follow, it would be an expression of wish.

Any chattels which are not specifically disposed of under a chattels clause in the will or a letter of wishes would then fall into the residuary estate. The executors of a will then have to either distribute the chattels between the beneficiaries listed under the will or sell the items and pay the proceeds to the beneficiaries.

To make or update your will, then please get in touch with one of our will specialists on 01206 217609 or