1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Chattel

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CHATTEL (for derivation see Cattle), a term used in English law as equivalent to “personal property,” that is, property which, on the death of the owner, devolves on his executor or administrator to be distributed (unless disposed of by will) among the next of kin according to the Statutes of Distributions. Chattels are divided into chattels real and chattels personal. Chattels real are those interests in land for which no “real action” (see Action) lies; estates which are less than freehold (estates for years, at will, or by sufferance) are chattels real. Chattels personal are such things as belong immediately to the person of the owner, and for which, if they are injuriously withheld from him, he has no remedy other than by a personal action. Chattels personal are divided into choses in possession and choses in action (see Chose).

A chattel mortgage, in United States law, is a transfer of personal property as security for a debt or obligation in such form that the title to the property will pass to the mortgagee upon the failure of the mortgagor to comply with the terms of the contract. At common law a chattel mortgage might be made without writing, and was valid as between the parties, and even as against third parties if accompanied by possession in the mortgagee, but in most states of the Union legislation now requires a chattel mortgage to be in writing and duly recorded in order to be valid against third parties. At common law a mortgage can be given only of chattels actually in existence and belonging to the mortgagor, though if he acquired title afterwards the mortgage would be good as between the parties, but not as against subsequent purchasers or creditors. In equity, on the other hand, a chattel mortgage, though not good as a conveyance, is valid as an executory agreement.

Goods and chattels is a phrase which, in its widest signification, includes any property other than freehold. The two words, however, have come to be synonymous, and the expression, now practically confined to wills, means merely things movable in possession.