Providing legal services to the people and businesses of Brentwood since 1850

The Estate of Prince and a Princess by Jessie Stewart

20th November 2019 | Alisha Francis

The preparation of Wills and trusts are often unmentionable topics within any family home and are often unusual topics in any newspaper headline.

The result of poor preparation of Wills and trusts however is a topic of controversy and potential dispute within any family home and has more than ever in recent years made many front pages of our Newspapers. We do not want this to happen to your family.

When the sad news hit our headlines that Princess Diana had passed away, it was shortly followed by the exposure of her wishes with regards to how her estate would be distributed. Diana’s letter of wishes (separate to her Will) requested executors, at their discretion, to give one quarter of her personal property to her godchildren, amounting to £100,000. Diana’s executors never did so and instead the court disregarded the letter of wishes. It was not all that bad however as each godchild received a keepsake gift, such as ‘an incomplete tea set, a commercially available watercolour painting or, according to one godchild’s parent, a “grubby trinket”’. It would be fair to say that the execution of her estate therefore was not handled with the class, elegance and decorum exuded by her throughout her years.

Your intent should therefore be incorporated into your Will and not placed into a separate document. Whilst letters of wishes are certainly a successful tool to express your wish, giving executors “discretion” to follow it may mean that your beneficiaries could end up with an incomplete tea set or a “grubby trinket”.

From the Princess of England and Wales to the Prince of music, we saw a different probate encounter in April 2016. When Prince passed away intestate (without making a Will), he left his assets to be dealt with in accordance with Minnesota law. A respectable £225 million fortune was left in the hands of the law to be claimed back by his closest relatives. Prince however acquired a few more relatives than he may have believed he had when in August 2016 the case judge had to reject 29 false claims by alleged family members who attempted to obtain part of his estate. DNA tests have been taken from those hopeful to establish a blood connection with the musician. It would be accurate to say that whilst it is likely that Prince never meant to cause any sorrow the probate in this estate may take some extra time.

Whilst this estate is a little more commercially driven than those dealt with by Landons on a day to day basis, keeping your Will in a safe and accessible place is invaluable. After providing our clients with new Wills, Landons hold them in a strong room in our offices at no extra cost. This prevents any unknown destruction of your Will and avoids any confusion for your family after your death in locating your original Will.

In 1962, when another beauty of the world passed away, the tabloids were intrigued by Marilyn Monroe’s estate succession. The original fashionista left most of her estate to her acting coach and mentor Lee Strasberg. Her Will stipulated that she wanted her personal effects to be shared amongst friends and ‘those to whom I am devoted to’. Strasberg held onto this increasing fortune until he eventually passed away in 1982. Monroe’s estate therefore passed with Strasberg’s to his third wife, who made a ‘cool £10 million’ from a Christies auction. Monroe’s famous JFK Happy Birthday gown sold for approximately £749,000 and Monroe’s baby grand piano was bought by Mariah Carey for an estimated £449,000.
It is important that your wishes with regards to the beneficiaries of your estate are considered in every eventuality. Whilst we cannot say with certainty, it is unlikely that Monroe foresaw her fortune being distributed after her death by Strasberg’s widow. At Landons we encourage our clients to make provisions in their estate for any foreseeable future event, to ensure that your assets are dealt with exactly as you would wish when you pass away.

Our firm puts each client’s needs at the forefront of our service provided. Whilst it is important to have a Will, it is fundamental to have the right Will. Whether, like Alexander McQueen, you wish to leave £50,000 for the maintenance of your dogs or whether like Shakespeare you wish to leave your second best bed to your wife in your Will, Landons ensure that each detail is correct for each client.

If you have any queries regarding your current Will, wish to make a new Will or wish to add to an existing Will please feel free to call us on 01277 210021 and we will be more than happy to arrange an appointment to suit your needs as appropriate.