How Princess Diana's Will Was Changed After Death

Princess Di riding in carriage on wedding day
••• Princess Diana Archive / Getty Images

When Diana, Princess of Wales, died in a car crash on that warm August night in Paris in 1997, she was all of 36 years old. She had been divorced from her first and only husband, Prince Charles, for exactly one year and three days. She left behind two young sons, William Arthur Philip Louis, known as Prince William, and Henry Charles Albert David, known as Prince Harry. 

Contents of Princess Diana's Estate

Princess Diana's estate consisted of stocks and other investments, as well as cash from her £17 million divorce settlement (worth roughly $27.2 million in 1997). It included jewelry, dresses, and other personal belongings valued at approximately £21 million ($36 million) as of her date of death. All this netted her heirs nearly £13 million ($20 million) after taxes. But who were those heirs?

Beneficiaries of Princess Diana's Estate

Princess Diana left a last will and testament, which she had signed on June 1, 1993. She modified the will by a first and only codicil on February 1, 1996.

These documents left the princess's estate in equal shares in trust to her young sons until each reached the age of 25. Her mother, Frances Ruth Shand Kydd, and her sister, Lady Elizabeth Sarah Lavinia McCorquodale, were to act as co-executors and co-trustees.

The short first codicil simply changed the executors and trustees from Princess Diana's mother and her personal secretary, Commander Patrick Desmond Christian Jermy Jephson, to her mother and her sister.

The Variation Order of December 1997

Princess Diana's mother and sister didn't like the provisions of the will because in December 1997, only a few months after the princess's death, the co-executors were able to obtain a secret variation order from the High Court of Justice. Under the terms of "The Arrangement" approved by the High Court, Princess Diana's estate ended up being distributed differently. 

Specific Bequests 

The sum of £50,000 ($80,000) was left to Princess Diana's butler, Paul Burrell. Certain "chattels"—what are known as "personal effects" in the U.S.—were left to Princess Diana's 17 godchildren.

The Discretionary Fund 

A Discretionary Fund was established for the benefit of Prince William, Prince Harry, their respective future descendants and spouses, and charities selected by the co-trustees.

The Discretionary Fund received the following assets of the estate: intellectual property rights, all wearing apparel, £100,000 ($160,000), and accumulated income earned by the fund's assets. The Discretionary Fund is to be held for a "Perpetuity Period" to last until 21 years after the death of the last surviving descendant of his late Majesty King George VI. The descendant had to be living on the date of Princess Diana's death.

King George VI was the father of Queen Elizabeth II, grandfather of Prince Charles, great-grandfather of Prince William and Prince Harry, and the subject of the 2010 movie, The King's Speech.

The income earned by the fund is to be distributed among the fund's beneficiaries during the Perpetuity Period as the trustees see fit. Anything left in the fund when it expires will go to the then-living descendants of Prince William and Prince Harry.

The Residuary Estate

The balance of Princess Diana's estate, referred to as the "residuary estate," was left in equal shares to Prince William and Prince Harry. The shares were to be held in trust until each prince reached the age of 30. Each prince was given access to all of the income from their trust when they turned 25. They also gained the power to change the final disposition of their trust if anything should remain at the time of their death.

Both Prince William and Prince Harry have reached the age of 30. Prince William turned 30 on June 21, 2012, and Prince Harry turned 30 on September 15, 2014. They each inherited their share of the residuary estate outright and free of further trust. It's estimated that at the time of each prince's 30th birthday, their shares of the residuary estate were worth £10 million each or about $16 million U.S. dollars.