royal estate planning

5 minute read

A Look Inside Princess Diana's Last Will & Testament

Take a look inside princess Diana's last will and testament as we break down a royal estate plan.

In August of 1997, the world mourned as it found out that the beloved Princess Diana died in a tragic car crash. She was only 36.

Did the famed Princess of Wales have an Estate Plan? The answer is “yes.” 

Keep reading to find out what was included in Princess Diana’s royal estate plan, and who inherited what. You might even be surprised when you find out that the royal princess’ estate plan wasn’t iron-clad as one might assume.

Who Was Included In Princess Diana’s Will?

As you might imagine, a Royal Estate Plan can involve many key players. In Princess Diana’s Last Will and Testament, several beneficiaries were named. Her two main heirs were her two sons, Prince William and Prince Harry. Included in the Will as beneficiaries were Princess Diana’s seventeen godchildren, as well as her beloved butler Paul Burrell. 

When establishing an Estate Plan, it’s important to name who will be the executors or trustees of your Will. These are the individuals who oversee that your estate is passed along to your heirs according to your wishes.

In Princess Diana’s case, her mother, The Honourable Frances Ruth Shand Kydd, and her sister, The Lady Elizabeth Sarah Lavinia McCorquodale, were named executors and trustees.

How Much Was Princess Diana’s Estate Worth?

Any guesses on how much a royal estate plan would be worth? According to The High Court of Justice of England, Princess Diana’s estate was 21,711,485 pounds. That’s over 30 million U.S. dollars.

Pro tip: in case you ever become royal, make sure to factor in the cost of inheritance taxes. In Princess Diana’s case, the net value of the estate was slashed down to roughly 17 million U.S. dollars after taxes.

What Was Included In Princess Diana’s Will?

After going through the approval process by England’s High Court of Justice, Princess Diana’s estate was distributed per the wishes detailed in her Will. Here is a short list of what has been reported, although not exhaustive:

  • 50,000 pounds, or around 70,000 dollars, was left to Princess Diana’s butler, Paul Burrell.

  • Sentimental belongings such as photos, paintings, and china, were left to the Princess’ 17 godchildren.

  • A fund received about 1.4 million dollars (100,000 pounds), as well as all of Princess DIana’s clothing. This included her famous wedding dress. The fund benefits Prince William and Prince Harry, along with their spouses and family members, and special charities. These charities also receive funds in the form of royalties earned from authorized use of Princess Diana’s likeness in commercial uses. 

  • Any remainder of Princess Diana’s estate was divided equally between the two princes. At the time of Princess Diana’s passing, they were to gain access to their inheritance when reaching the age of 30, although they were granted access to income earned on the money held in the Trust at the age of 25.

What Happened To Princess Diana’s Iconic Jewelry And Wedding Dress?

Now, we all want to know: what happened to all of Princess Diana’s jewelry, and to her iconic wedding dress? 

In 1981, Princess Diana’s Royal Wedding at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London was televised around the world. Her David and Elizabeth Emanuel wedding dress was instantly iconic. It was hand-embroidered, and held more than 10,000 pearls and a 25-foot train.

Following her death, the wedding dress was toured around the world for viewings. Once Prince Harry turned 30, the dress was transferred to the princes as a part of their inheritance. Many of Princess Diana’s famous clothing are on display at Kensington Place, although it is unknown when the dress will make an appearance next. 

When Princess Diana’s younger son, Prince Harry, turned 30, many of her jewelry items were transferred to the princes as well.

Duchess of Cambridge and wife to Prince William Kate Middleton is sometimes seen wearing some of the jewelry that Princess Diana left to the princes’ future wives. Prince William presented Princess Diana’s engagement ring to Kate Middleton when he proposed. The Duchess is also seen wearing Diana’s tiara and sapphire earrings. 

Most recently, Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex and wife to Prince Harry, was seen wearing Princess Diana’s diamond Cartier bracelet during her interview with Oprah Winfrey.

Controversy Surrounding Princess Diana’s Estate Plan

One would think that someone was Royal as Princess Diana would have an iron-clad Estate Plan. However much as it may surprise you, the late Princess’ estate was not distributed according to plan.

In addition to her Will, Princess Diana wrote a “Letter of Wishes” that requested that all of her jewelry and three quarters of her personal belongings (“chattels”) be passed on to her two sons, Prince William and Prince Harry. She wished for the remaining one fourth to be inherited by her 17 godchildren.

Upon Diana’s passing, the executors of her estate (her mother and sister), successfully challenged her estate through probate court. The reason for this was a “variance” of her will. 

Through this court decision, Prince Harry and Prince William had a delay in receiving their inheritances. They had to reach the age of 30, instead of 25. 

Each of Diana’s 17 godchildren received just one item each from her collection of personal property, rather than one-quarter of the value of all of her personal property (excluding jewelry.) Some described the god children's inheritance as a mere “tacky memento.” 

The controversy deepens. Princess Diana’s Letter of Wishes went undisclosed for several years. Family members only found out about the Letter of Wishes through unrelated court proceedings, and as you might imagine, they were outraged. 

Always Go With a Trust and Will

The important lesson learned through Princess Diana’s estate planning controversy is this: always address your wishes directly in a verified Trust or Will. In Princess Diana’s case, some of her last wishes were written in a letter. (Quite literally, a “Letter of Wishes.”) Ultimately, the contents of the letter weren’t honored because it wasn’t written by a lawyer and could not be held up in court. 

This goes to show that your fame or status, even Royal status, doesn’t really matter when it comes to legal matters. If you wish for your estate to be passed along to your loved ones in a specific way, then make absolutely sure to specify your wishes in a vetted Trust or Will that will hold up in court.

Finally, note that Princess Diana passed away at the young age of 36. Surely, she was incentivized to establish a Will early in her life due to her public profile and sizable estate plan. However, many young people are under the impression that estate planning is something to be done when you’re older, or have built up some wealth. However, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Every person, no matter their net worth, has precious items to pass along to loved ones. By establishing a Trust or Will early on in your life, you can rest assured that your legacy will be preserved properly if anything were to happen to you.

Worried about whether or not your wishes would hold up in a court of law? Wanting to make sure that your precious items will fall into the right hands should anything unexpected happen to you? Trust & Will makes it easy, convenient, and affordable to set up your estate plan! Try it out today. 


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