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September Review: The Queen and Other Jewels

It’s almost the end of the month, which means it’s time for our monthly review of elder law news and developments. Normally, we survey a broad elder law landscape, but this September review is not normal: Queen Elizabeth has died. That leaves many wondering who inherits her $500 million fortune. So we spend much of the September review on the royals. For the royal-averse, we include additional developments below. Scroll down.

September Review: The Royals Edition

You may have heard. Queen Elizabeth II, who ruled the United Kingdom for seven decades, died September 8 at age 96. What’s next?

Eldest son Charles, now King, is of course the primary beneficiary of the Queen’s holdings. But there are additional curiosities. Charles and the other members of the royal family enjoy special treatment. For one thing, no estate tax. Although the U.K. has a 40% inheritance tax for estates over $380,000, the royals are exempt. (The tax would have eaten up about $200 million of the Queen’s estate.)

The royals also enjoy a degree of privacy unavailable to commoners.  Wills are public in the United Kingdom. But some people, including the royals, can keep them secret. Prince Philip’s will, for instance, is under seal 90 years after death. The same rule will keep the Queen’s will out of the public eye.

Still, there’s plenty that’s known and quite a bit of speculation out there. Here’s the CliffsNotes version of who gets what:

The King

  • King Charles III, eldest child of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip

Charles, now King, inherits all of his mother’s estate as well as the “Sovereign Grant,” a taxpayer fund paid each year to the British royal family. One report explains: “The Sovereign Grant originated from an agreement made by King George III in 1760, who agreed to surrender his income from Parliament to receive a set annual payment for himself and future generations of the British royal family.”

Under the agreement, the British royal family receives a distribution in exchange for surrendering profits from the Crown Estate, the family’s holdings worth an estimated $34.3 billion, to the government. The reigning monarch receives 25% of the Crown Estate’s profits each year to pay for property upkeep and utilities, travel, and the royal employee payroll. In 2021, the Crown Estate reportedly generated a net profit of $361 million.

The Crown Estate “belongs” to King Charles III as the country’s reigning monarch, but it’s held in trust, not his personal property.  Its holdings include Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace and land and properties across London and the U.K. An independent organization, known as Monarchy PLC, oversees its operation.

Charles, as the reigning monarch, also controls the Duchy of Lancaster, which encompasses 71 square miles and is worth more than $950 million. The duchy, set up in 1399, reported $27 million in profit in 2021. The Queen owned other assets, including a stamp collection started by King George V, and a horse stable which earned her an estimated $8 million over the years.

Plus: He owns all the swans, whales and dolphins of the United Kingdom, species considered property of the crown.

His Siblings

  • Princess Anne, second eldest child and the only daughter of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip

Princess Anne will inherit a share of the Sovereign Grant, though the exact amount of her share isn’t known. Some reports say Princess Anne will receive a new royal title given her prominence in the events leading up to the Queen’s funeral. (She was at Queen Elizabeth’s side for the 24 hours before death.)

  • Prince Andrew, third eldest child of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip

Like Princess Anne, Andrew will inherit a share of the Sovereign Grant. BBC reported that Andrew and his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson will inherit two of the Queen’s corgis, Muick and Sandy. Andrew and his daughters, Beatrice and Eugenie, gave the dogs to the Queen as a present in 2021. A source told the BBC that Ferguson “bonded with Her Majesty over dog walking and riding horses, and even after her divorce, she would continue her great friendship with Her Majesty, by walking the dogs in Frogmore and chatting.”

  • Prince Edward, the youngest child of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip

Like his siblings, Edward will inherit a share of the Sovereign Grant.

His Children

  • Prince William, Queen Elizabeth’s grandchild and eldest child of King Charles III and his late wife, Diana

Prince William inherited the Duchy of Cornwall, a private estate worth around $1.2 billion. The estate—which belonged to King Charles before he took the throne—covers 140,000 acres in the United Kingdom. Funds generated pay for “public, private and charitable activities” of the Duke of Cornwall, the title William inherited after the Queen’s death.

The Duchy of Cornwall was established in 1337 to financially support the heir to the throne, and it l will provide income for Prince William and his wife, Kate Middleton. It generates funds via ownership and operation of land in various areas in the United Kingdom. In 2018, the Duchy of Cornwall made Charles and Camilla $28 million.

  • Prince Harry, Queen Elizabeth’s grandchild and youngest child of King Charles and Diana

It’s unclear what Harry will inherit from the Queen, however, after the death of his mother, Princess Diana, Harry and William inherited part of their mother’s estate on their 25th birthdays, which was around $10 million each, according to Forbes.

His Children’s Spouses

  • Kate Middleton, Prince William’s wife

Kate has been wearing the Queen’s jewelry in honor of the late monarch, suggesting that the reports of her inheriting $110 million worth of jewels may be true. The inheritance is from the Queen’s personal collection, which includes 300 pieces that belonged specifically to the Queen and not the Crown. “[The Queen] been focusing on her beloved pieces and who deserves what,” a source told Radar Online in July. Kate was thought to be her favorite. Some say Charles would receive the jewels and make gifts as directed; otherwise, Kate would owe tax. His wife, Camilla, may get first choice.

  • Meghan Markle, Prince Harry’s wife

The Queen likely left Meghan nothing, perhaps partly because she and Harry have opted out of royal duties and live in California.

Royal Planning: We may never be royals, but that doesn’t mean there are no planning lessons to be learned from the Queen. For one, take estate planning seriously. The plans for her estate had been in the works for decades.

September Review: Not Royals

In other elder law developments:

Celeb Estates
  • Maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that there’s drama in Anne Heche’s estate; her ex-SO and sons are at odds.
  • Louie Anderson’s estate is also embroiled in a dispute; his sister says he was abused and is seeking to set aside a trust amendment executed just before he died.
  • Kenny Rogers’ items are up for grabs from October 21 to 23, including two typed letters from Dolly Parton, one of which ends with the words, “I will always love you.”
  • Prince’s estate has prevailed in the dispute over a purple rain energy drink.
News & Drama
  • CNN’s Anderson Cooper is exploring grief in a series of podcasts, featuring himself, Stephen Colbert, and Molly Shannon.
  • It’s surprising that estate disputes are rarely fodder for Hollywood treatment. Coming up in November: the thriller “The Estate” with Toni Collette and Anna Faris angling for the estate of an ailing aunt.
Tax & Tips

Inflation has a couple of upsides, big increases in the estate and gift tax exemption (for 2023 Estate/Gift tax exemptions

Choosing a fiduciary–trustee, executor, or power of attorney–is perhaps the most important decision to make an an estate plan. Here are 5 tips.

Aging & Wellness

Every month, more studies tell us how to reduce the risk of dementia or help treat it. For the September review, we’re told to treat vision loss, walk at least a little bit, avoid pollution and celebrate music.

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