Conflict of laws distinguish between movable and immovable property.  Generally, immovable property is governed by the law of the place where it is situated.  This determines such matters as the nature of the property rights and their transfer and inheritance.

There is a distinction between tangible and intangible movables.  The former are physical objects and the latter are in the nature of claims which must be asserted generally by court action.  While the former would include goods and other physical objects, the latter includes choses in action such as debts, goodwill, stocks and shares.

The law on the transfer of tangible movable property is more difficult.  There are a number of different approaches to determining the law governing the transfer.  Different aspects of transferability arise.

At one time the matter was governed by the law of the domicile of the good’s owner.  An alternative approach recognised the law of the place where the goods are situated.  This could be appropriate where both parties had different domiciles and were in different countries.  However there are cases where this would appear arbitrary and disconnected with the facts.

The modern approach is that the contract should be governed by the law of the place with which the transfer has the most real connection.  The issue must be looked at from the perspective of the different kind of issues that may affect a transfer.  .

A contract for the transfer of property and the rights and obligations under it are determined by the proper law of the transfer.  This would determine such matters as implied conditions of sale and warranties. A distinct issue is the transfer itself.  This is more likely to be determined by the law of the place where the goods are situated.

The law governing transfers of property and rights of property will often arise under a contract. The law that governs the contract is not necessarily the one that governs how the property is passed. The law distinguishes between questions relating to the contract and questions relating to the property.

It is possible that an order may be made to pursue a contract to transfer land in another country. In this case the party to the contract might be obliged personally by the court perform it. However the Court cannot order the direct transfer of the property.  If the transfer would be impossible under the law where the property is situated the law of the country whose is governing the contract would not apply it.

The general rule is that the law where the goods are situated governs their transfer. This may differ from the law which governs the contract under which the goods pass. The reason for this is the third parties’ rights may also be involved.

Where goods are transferred there may be changes in the physical location. Once title has passed as a result of the transaction under the law of the place it is situated, it does not matter that it is later moved.  If title does not pass under the law of the place where it is situate it doesn\’t matter if it is later taken to another country unless some new act under the law of that country causes titled to pass.

Looking to the law of the location of goods can lead to anomalies particularly where goods are being transported. If goods are in transit and their location is incidental or unknown, transfer under the proper law of the contract may suffice. In addition, the Irish Courts may refuse to recognise a transfer if it is contrary to public policy. If a foreign government expropriates without compensation, it may not be recognised.

Issues in relation to transfer of goods may in turn depend on prior title which may in turn refer to the law of another country under which title was acquired.

There are a number of exceptions to the principle that  the transfer is determined by the law of the place where the goods are situated.  The rule do not apply to goods in transit with a  casual or unknown location at the relevant time.  Succession is dealt with by separate rules.  The rules of the place of situation  will not apply if there are mandatory Irish rules which the courts must  apply.

Ownership of movable goods acquired in one country under a transaction is good throughout the entire world.  This is displaced if a new title is vested in the third party as a result of an assignment, which is effective in the law of  the country to which the goods have been taken

This is the of  which the courts in that  place would apply.  This is not necessarily that states domestic law.

The rules on seizing of movables by creditors is determined by the law of the place in which they are situated.

It appears that gifts are governed by the law of the place where the goods are situated.

A pledge which is valid by the law of the place where the immovable is situated is recognised in Ireland.  It cannot give any better title than the pledger can give in the absence of special foreign legislation.

Where under the law of the place where goods are shipped and where the ship is, the shipper is entitled to exercise a right to stop in transit, an exercise is in a manner recognised as valid by that law,  is recognised in Ireland.

A bill of sale of goods which is valid by the place where the goods are situated and does not require registration is valid in Ireland without registration.  In such case, an assignment to creditors is capable of passing title to them without registration under the Bill of Sales Act.

The rights of the assignor or an assignee of a document of title to a debt or an interest in personal property, is usually governed by the law of the place where that assignment takes place.  This may be so even though the debt is due from persons living in or where the property may be situated in a foreign country.  The validity of assignments of insurance policies, bills of exchange etc.  is governed by the law of the place where the assignment is made.


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Draft Articles; The articles on this website are in draft form and are subject to further review for typographical errors and, in some cases, updating and correction. It is intended to include references to the sources of materials and acknowledgements in the final version. The content of articles with [EU] in the title and some of the articles in the section on Agriculture are a reproduction of or are based on European or Irish public sector information.

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