Personal Property

AuthorJeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps

Page 432

Everything that is the subject of ownership that does not come under the denomination of real property; any right or interest that an individual has in movable things.

Personal property can be divided into two major categories: (1) corporeal personal property, including such items as animals, merchandise, and jewelry; and (2) incorporeal personal property, comprised of such rights as stocks, bonds, PATENTS, and copyrights.


Possession is a property interest under which an individual is able to exercise power over something to the exclusion of all others. It is a basic property right that entitles the possessor to (1) the right to continue peaceful possession against everyone except someone having a superior right; (2) the right to recover a chattel that has been wrongfully taken; and (3) the right to recover damages against wrongdoers.

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Possession requires a degree of actual control over the object, coupled with the intent to possess and exclude others. The law recognizes two basic types of possession: actual and constructive.

Actual possession exists when an individual knowingly has direct physical control over an object at a given time. For example, an individual wearing a particular piece of valuable jewelry has actual possession of it. Constructive possession is the power and intent of an individual to control a particular item, even though it is not physically in that person's control. For example, an individual who has the key to a bank safe deposit box, which contains a valuable piece of jewelry that she owns, is said to be in constructive possession of the jewelry.

Possession of Animals

Animals ferae naturae, or wild animals, are those that cannot be completely domesticated. A degree of force or skill is necessary to maintain control over them. Gaining possession is a means of obtaining title to, or ownership of, wild animals.

Generally an owner of land has the right to capture or kill a wild animal on her property and upon doing so, the animal is regarded as belonging to that individual because she owns the soil. The traditional legal principle has been that one who tames a wild animal is regarded as its owner provided it appears to exhibit animus revertendi, or the intent to return to the owner's domicile. Conversely when a captured wild animal escapes and returns to its natural habitat without any apparent intent to return to the captor's domicile, the captor forfeits all personal property right and the animal may be captured by anyone.

Lost, Mislaid, and Abandoned Property

Personal property is considered to be lost if the owner has involuntarily parted with it and is ignorant of its location. Mislaid property is that which an owner intentionally places somewhere with the idea that he will eventually be able to find it again but subsequently forgets where...

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