Personal Property Law

What is Personal Property?

Personal Property, also called “movable property,” “personalty,” “movables,” or “chattels,” include virtually any form of property other than real estate. The distinguishing characteristic between real and personal property is that, in most instances, the personal property is transportable, such as vehicles, furniture, electronics, boats, cars, collectibles, etc.

Classifications of Personal Property

There are a number of different types of personal property. For example, tangible personal property refers generally to any object that can be moved, touched, or felt. “Moved” in this context means that it has not been integrated into a building or land, becoming a fixture and a piece of the real property. Some forms of tangible personal property will include titles demonstrating ownership, like cars and boats, but most do not.

Intangible personal property (or "intangibles") are, as the name implies, things that cannot actually be moved, touched, or felt, but instead represents something of value. A few examples include negotiable instruments, securities, and other types of investments.

Personal Versus Private Property

Another important distinction is the difference between personal and private property. Private property is less a legal distinction and more a social one. If something is intended only for the use of a single individual or small group of individuals, one might refer to it as “private property.” However, despite the similar sounding name, personal property is not necessarily private. Personal property, legally speaking, only differentiates a piece of property as being something that is movable versus the fixed nature of real property.

More Information

For more information about Personal Property, please visit the resources listed below. Additionally, should you require assistance with a legal matter pertaining to personal property, you can find an attorney in your area by visiting our Law Firms page.


Personal Property Law - US

  • ABA - Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section

    The Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section is a leading national forum for lawyers, and currently has over 30,000 members. The Real Property Division focuses on legal aspects of property use, ownership, development, transfer, regulation, financing, taxation and disposal. The Trust and Estate Division focuses on all aspects of trusts, estate planning, employee benefits, insurance, and probate and trust litigation.

  • Asset Forfeiture Program - Department of Justice

    The primary mission of the Department of Justice Asset Forfeiture Program is to employ asset forfeiture powers in a manner that enhances public safety and security. This is accomplished by removing the proceeds of crime and other assets relied upon by criminals and their associates to perpetuate their criminal activity against our society. Asset forfeiture has the power to disrupt or dismantle criminal organizations that would continue to function if we only convicted and incarcerated specific individuals.

  • Hybrid Law

    Hybrid Law tracks laws concerning ownership of hybrid cats and dogs in the United States, and where possible other countries. Legislation is listed by state and may include county and city. Laws, statutes, ordinances and regulations from all levels of government affect the ownership of exotic and hybrid animals. It is strongly recommended that county and city laws, and homeowners’ association rules be researched prior to buying or selling any hybrid animal.

  • Personal Property - Definition

    All property other than land and buildings attached to land. Cars, bank accounts, wages, securities, a small business, furniture, insurance policies, jewelry, patents, pets, and season baseball tickets are all examples of personal property. Personal property may also be called personal effects, movable property, goods and chattel, and personalty.

  • Saving Anitiques Organization

    Welcome to The SAFE online resource that highlights issues related to the vulnerability of our shared cultural heritage to looting and the illicit antiquities trade.

  • Uniform Commercial Code (UCC)

    The Uniform Commercial Code is a comprehensive set of laws governing commercial transactions between U.S. states and territories. These transactions include borrowing money, leases, contracts, and the sale of goods. The UCC is not a federal law, but a product of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws and the American Law Institute, private organizations that recommend the adopting of the UCC by state governments. State legislatures may either adopt the UCC verbatim or may modify to meet the state's needs. Once a state's legislature adopts and enacts the UCC it becomes a state law and is codified in the state's statutes. All 50 states and territories have enacted some version of the UCC.

  • United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)

    The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is the Federal agency for granting U.S. patents and registering trademarks. In doing this, the USPTO fulfills the mandate of Article I, Section 8, Clause 8, of the Constitution that the Executive branch "promote the progress of science and the useful arts by securing for limited times to inventors the exclusive right to their respective discoveries." The USPTO registers trademarks based on the Commerce Clause of the Constitution (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3). Under this system of protection, American industry has flourished. New products have been invented, new uses for old ones discovered, and employment opportunities created for millions of Americans. The strength and vitality of the U.S. economy depends directly on effective mechanisms that protect new ideas and investments in innovation and creativity. The continued demand for patents and trademarks underscores the ingenuity of American inventors and entrepreneurs. The USPTO is at the cutting edge of the Nation's technological progress and achievement

Organizations Related to Personal Property Law

  • Forfeiture Endangers American Rights Foundation

    Forfeiture Endangers American Rights is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to reform of federal and state asset forfeiture laws to restore due process and protect property rights in the forfeiture process.

Articles on Related to Personal Property Law

  • Adding Beneficiaries to a Charitable Remainder Unitrust
    Creating a charitable remainder unitrust is not an easy task for an estate owner and determining whether or not to add beneficiaries is something the individual may need to assess. In so doing, he or she may need to fully understand the requirements and how these may affect the future of the trust or other important parties.
  • Charitable Remainder Unitrust – What Are They
    Unitrusts are standard trusts with a trustee and monetary disbursements to the beneficiaries with an added difference once the trust term expires. Once the trust is no longer paid to the beneficiary, the assets that remain within the unitrust then go to the charity of whichever purposes the trust exist for by the person designating it.
  • Charitable Remainder Unitrust – Adding Beneficiaries
    Understanding how to create and maintain a charitable remainder unitrust is important for the estate owner, and it could lead to several advantages.
  • What Is an Income Cap Trust?
    Income caps affect the elderly and other individuals seeking Medicaid for long-term assistance, and when the older person needs an income cap trust, this could affect the situation with children or other guardians. Those seeking to help an elderly individual in need of long-term care may need to satisfy the state conditions to do so for him or her.
  • I Am My Father’s Only Living Relative. Can I Collect His Pension?
    When a person has worked for a company for a requisite number of years, he or she may be eligible for a pension. However, the employee may sometimes die before he or she receives the pension or before receiving the entire amount of the pension. This leaves open the question what happens to the pension when an employee dies. In some situations, an adult child may receive the remainder of the pension.
  • Problems Posed by Drafting Your Own Will
    Many people are influenced into drafting their own wills. They may want to save money by not hiring a lawyer. They may want to maintain privacy and think the best way to do it is to write their own will. They may pick up a do it yourself kit at an office supply store and feel they are competent to prepare a will.
  • Do You Need a Will if You Don’t Have an Estate?
    People often have many misconceptions about wills and estate planning. They often think of the word as “estate” as only applying if they own a large home. Having a will protects a person’s personal property in several ways. It also provides other benefits.
  • Do I Have to Leave Assets to My Spouse in My Will?
    Marriage creates certain legal duties and responsibilities between parties that would not otherwise exist without the benefit of marriage. One such right includes the right to inherit from a deceased spouse. Some spouses may specifically write out their spouse in their will. However, this may not be an effective way to disinherit a spouse. What the surviving spouse is entitled to depends on state law, where the property is located and whether any valid agreements exist between the parties.
  • Function of Community Property Trusts
    A community property trust can protect the interests of a married couple. This in turn allows the spouses to retain a larger value of estates in the family. It is important to understand the legal identification of property and how community property trusts function so that you can protect your legal and financial interests.
  • Paying Attention to Details in Your Estate Plan and Importance of an Estate Planning Lawyer
    The estate plan is crucial to ensure either retirement is comfortable, or that heirs are taken care of after the estate owner has passed on, and the details are essential to providing for these eventualities. The estate planning lawyer is the main point of contact for documentation and implementation of the plan and keeping the steps followed after the person is no longer alive.
  • All Banking and Finance Law Articles

    Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide discussing legal aspects related to Banking and Finance including: asset protection, capital markets, corporate finance, financial planning, financial services law, investment law, offshore accounts, private equity, project finance, public finance, securities, trade investment and venture capital.

  • All Intellectual Property Law Articles

    Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide discussing legal aspects related to Intellectual Property including: copyright, domain names, licensing law, patents, trade secrets and trademark.

  • All Leisure Law Articles

    Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide discussing legal aspects related to Leisure including: art and cultural property, entertainment law, gaming, hospitality law, sports and recreation, tourism and travel.

Find a Lawyer

Find a Local Lawyer