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Legally Speaking - Part 6

Posted on 1 December 2017

Legally Speaking - Part 6

I’m going to start off by saying a big thank you to everyone that has come into our legal clinics over the last month. They are now very well attended and we have had some great feedback from those that have made use of them. There have been a huge variety of queries and concerns brought to us, from issues over boundaries to whether it is possible to change your name without getting married and, hopefully, we have been able to help in most cases.

There are a few recurring themes in the sort of things that we are being asked about so I thought I may look at some of these over the coming months, starting straight away with the issue of possessions. 

What is a chattel? It’s an old fashioned legal word and, in modern times, it seems to cause quite a lot of confusion. Chattels include furniture, personal possessions, cars, boats and, to the surprise of some, animals. We are, apparently, a nation of animal lovers. I certainly think of my dog, Cara (a very naughty black and white cockapoo) as part of my family. However, in law, she is a possession and, as such, can be sold, given away (I could try but they would soon bring her back) or left to someone of my choice in my will. 

Where a pet has not been included in a will it usually falls to the executors of the estate to rehome the animal. This can be a tricky task. I once had a cage of finches in the office for ten days until we could find someone suitable to take them on! Your will can include a clause in respect of your pets and even provide a financial sum to the person who will be looking after them to cover all of their expenses. In my will it is more like a bribe to get someone to take Cara!

There is also considerable confusion about what possessions should specifically be left in a will. It is sensible to specify items in your will of a high monetary value to ensure your intended beneficiary receives them. Clearly it is not practical to detail every last item that you own and who each thing should go to so the alternative is to leave a list of items and who you wish them to be given to. This is called a memorandum.

A clause in your will can be included to request your executors to distribute items in the memorandum according to your wishes. This is a very practical way to deal with possessions as the list can be updated at any time, for example if you give away items or acquire new ones, and it does not require a change to your will. It must be remembered, however, that the distribution of items in the memorandum are only a request to the executors and are not legally binding. Of course, it places a strong moral obligation on the executors but, for this reason, it should only be used for items of sentimental value.

I was once told by a very experienced barrister that more families fall out over ‘the Elvis mug’ than any other point in the administration of an estate. I was puzzled too until he explained that this was the one item of no monetary value that every family member wants because it has huge sentimental value. 

As always, do give me a call on 01935 382689 or email at catherine.murton@pardoes.co.uk or call into one of our free legal clinics to discuss your ‘Elvis mug’!

Posted in: Court of Protection & Powers of Attorney, Elderly & Vulnerable Client Affairs, Probate and Estate Administration, Trusts & Tax Planning, Wealth Protection, Wills