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Even the Queen had a Will

by | Sep 21, 2022 | Wills & Estates

At the time of her death Queen Elizabeth II is said to have been the wealthiest woman in the world, and left behind an estimated USD$500 million fortune which included property, artwork, jewels and racehorses.

We do know that the Queen had a Will however what it specifies and how her wealth is to be distributed will likely be kept a secret for years to come.  This follows history as the Wills of the sovereign and fellow royal family members have remained private.

But what could it include? Or maybe more importantly, what does it not include?
Royal Firm – the “family business”

As it was often referred to by Prince Phillip, the “family business”, being the Royal Firm, valued in 2017 at approximately USD$88 billion, sits outside of the Queen’s personal estate and therefore is not dealt with in her Will.  Instead, King Charles III will become the controller of the Royal Firm and will operate the global enterprise.

Crown Jewels, Artwork and the Palaces

The multiple palaces which were often occupied by the Queen and many personal items such as the Crown Jewels and some works of art will not fall into the category of the Queen’s private property and dealt with under her Will.

This is because these assets have been held in a trust dating back to the 14th century.  The Duchy of Lancaster has a portfolio of assets and properties and has accumulated over the generations with an estimated value today of USD$700 million.  The Duchy of Lancaster, which was essentially the Queen’s main source of income, in 2022 apparently produced income of about USD $27 million.

King Charles III now receives the income from the Duchy of Lancaster together with control of its assets.

So then what would the Will include?

It is likely that the Queen’s Will would have dealt with her personal assets and how they would be distributed.  Her personal assets likely included jewellery, artwork, her private residence at Sandringham, the Royal Philatelic Collection (a collection of stamps from across the Commonwealth) and her interests in racehorses.

As we have seen in the media also recently, it also included her beloved corgis which are reported to now be in the care of Prince Andrew and his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson.

Does the Queen’s estate need to pay tax?

In the UK, the standard rate for inheritance tax, being a tax on the estate is 40% where an estate is valued at above £325,000.  However, in 1993 it is reported that the Queen entered into an arrangement with then UK government that no inheritance tax was liable on the Queen’s personal wealth and also for any sovereign-to-sovereign bequests in the future.

The Queen v You

In Victoria (and also in the UK), to be able to deal with a personal estate such as that of the Queen, a Grant of Probate would be required however, this is not the case for the Queen.  As she was the source of legal authority in the UK, there is no requirement for her Will to be probated which means her Will may forever remain secret and the value of the estate unknown.

How can Nevett Ford help you?

You don’t have to own palaces or have the Crown Jewels to have a Will.  The majority of us have assets which will need to be dealt with upon our death including superannuation, property, bank accounts, etc.  Nevett Ford’s Wills and Estates Team can work with you to make a Will which will allow these assets to pass to your loved ones in accordance with your wishes.  For more information, please contact us at melbourne@nevettford.com.au or on 03 9614 7111.