INVENTORY (post-class. Lat. invenlarium, a list or repertory, from imienire to find), a detailed list, schedule or enumeration in writing, of goods and chattels, credits and debts, and sometimes also of lands and tenements.
(i) In law, perhaps its earliest, and certainly its most important use has been in connexion with the doctrine of " benefit of inventory," derived by many legal systems from the beneficium inventarii of Roman law, according to which an heir might enter on his ancestor's inheritance without being liable for the debts attaching to it or to the claims of legatees beyond the value previously ascertained by " inventory " of the estate. The benefit of inventory exists in Scots law, in France (benefice d'inventaire), in Italy, Mauritius (Civil Code, Art. 774), Quebec (Civil Code, Art. 660), St Lucia (Civil Code, Art. 585), Louisiana (Civil Code, Arts. 1025 et seq.), and under the Roman Dutch law in Ceylon. In South Africa benefit of inventory is superseded by local legislation.
(ii.) In many systems of law, the duty is imposed on executors and administrators of making an " inventory " of the estate of the testator or intestate, in order to secure the property to the persons entitled to it. In England this duty was created by statute in 1529. In modern practice an inventory is not made unless called for, but the court may order it ex officio, and will do so on the application of any really interested party. Similar provisions for an inventory of the estate of deceased persons are made in Scots law (Probate and Legacy Duties Act 1808 (s. 38), and Executors (Scotland) Act 1900 (s. 5), and in most of the British colonies. In Scotland, prior to the Finance Act 1894 (which imposed a tax, called " estate duty," on the principal value of all property, heritable or movable, passing on death), the stamp duty on movable property was termed " inventory duty."
In the United States, the duty of preparing an inventory is generally imposed on executors and administrators; see Kent, Commentaries on American Law (new ed., 1896), ii. 414, 415; and cf. Gen. Stats, of Connecticut, 1888, s. 578; New York Stats, s. 2714; New Jersey (Orphans Court, s. 58).
(iii.) An analogous duty of preparing an " inventory " is imposed in many countries on guardians and curators. In Scotland judicial factors are charged with a similar statutory duty (Act of Sederunt, Nov. 25th, 1857, under the Bankruptcy (Scotland) Act 1856) as regards the estate of insolvent debtors.
(iv.) In Scots law, the term " inventory " is also applied to a list of documents made up for any purpose, e.g. the inventory of process or the inventory of documents, in an action, and the inventory of title-deeds produced on a judicial sale of lands.
(v.) In England an " inventory " of the personal chattels comprised in the security is required to be annexed to a bill of sale (Bills of Sale Act 1882, s. 5). See also EXECUTORS AND ADMINISTRATORS.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)