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A chattel can be either personal or real. Strictly speaking, 'chattel personal' (or 'personal chattel') denotes a movable thing or good. More commonly, though, the term is used in a wider sense to signify any kind of property other than real property and chattels real. As a result, 'chattel personal' refers to both tangible and intangible objects, or choses in possession and choses in action. Tangible chattels (or choses in possession) include such items as vehicles, furniture, domestic animals, etc. They consist of movable things that can be physically possessed. Intangible chattels (or choses in action) comprise such items as debts, shares in companies, copyrights, negotiable instruments, etc. They include anything that exists as a claim recoverable by action at law.

'Chattel real' (or 'real chattel') is a term for rights associated with real estate (land and buildings) but classified as chattel because, traditionally, at common law, the rights devolved to the personal representative of the deceased owner, not to his heir. In fact, the main difference between real estate and chattels real had to do with: (i) the mode of devolution upon death; (ii) the rights of succession on intestacy; and (iii) the issue of legal remedies. However, these issues were made irrelevant in 1925 as a result of the extensive land reform legislation enacted that year, and the distinction is now only of historical interest. Today, the main instances of chattels real are interests in land less than a freehold, for example, leasehold estates. The justification for this classification is that a chattel real lacks the indefiniteness of time essential to real property.

See also chose in possession, chose in action.

Land and Property Law