Influential women and their estates after death.

Diana, Princess of Wales, 1961–97

Diana made her will in 1993 but amended it in 1996 and changed a trustee to include her sister. Diana’s mother was also a trustee. The estate was worth £21 million- after taxes this was reduced to £17 million.

The Will gave instructions for the majority of the estate to be distributed between her two sons; with instructions they were to receive their inheritance on turning 25 years of age. Diana’s brother was given the responsibility to look after Diana’s possessions until William and Harry became of age to inherit them.

Diana had written a letter of wishes as well and asked that a percentage of her personal property be given to her 17 Godchildren. Diana’s Trustees petitioned the probate court for a “variance” of the Will and the letter of wishes was discounted. The letter of wishes being discounted because it did not contain “certain language required by British law”. 

The variance also prevented the estate from being distributed between her sons at the age of 25 but postponed it until they were 30. Diana’s butler was also left around £50,000 in cash.

This matter highlights the need to have a Will and letter of wishes professionally constructed rather than relying on High Street packs or writing your own.

The matter also considers the use of letters of wishes, which, whilst being instructions to the Trustees; are not legally binding.

Letters of wishes, however, can be used to great effect in detailing funeral requirements and as simple supplemental instructions to a personal possessions clause in the Will.

For further information contact at Avalon Legal:


© Karen Wells – May 2020

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