1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Heirloom
HEIRLOOM, strictly so called in English law, a chattel (“loom” meaning originally a tool) which by immemorial usage is regarded as annexed by inheritance to a family estate. Any owner of such heirloom may dispose of it during his lifetime, but he cannot bequeath it by will away from the estate. If he dies intestate it goes to his heir-at-law, and if he devises the estate it goes to the devisee. At the present time such heirlooms are almost unknown, and the word has acquired a secondary and popular meaning and is applied to furniture, pictures, &c., vested in trustees to hold on trust for the person for the time being entitled to the possession of a settled house. Such things are more properly called settled chattels. An heirloom in the strict sense is made by family custom, not by settlement. A settled chattel may, under the Settled Land Act 1882, be sold under the direction of the court, and the money arising under such sale is capital money. The court will only sanction such a sale if it be shown that it is to the benefit of all parties concerned; and if the article proposed to be sold is of unique or historical character, it will have regard to the intention of the settlor and the wishes of the remainder men (Re Hope, De Cetto v. Hope, 1899, 2 ch. 679).