The Prince and the Probate: What if Harry was cut out?

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The Prince and the Probate: What if Harry was cut out?

Last week saw ITV show Opera Winfrey’s recent interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

According to viewing figures over 11.1m people tuned in for an interview which revealed much about the difficulties the couple have endured as members of the Royal Family and their decision to step down as ‘working Royals’.

Perhaps one of the most revealing points to come out of the interview was that Prince Harry stated he had been cut off financially by the family since the first quarter of 2020.

The majority of Prince Harry’s income while an active royal is understood by the BBC to be derived from his father Prince Charles, who is entitled to the surplus income generated by the Duchy of Cornwall’s estate, which comprises land, buildings and investments, and part of the Sovereign Grant. The Annual Review 2020 which covered the activities of the Prince of Wales for the period to the year ending 31 March 2020 indicated that Prince Charles received income in excess of £22 million from the Duchy of Cornwall estate and circa £1.7million from the Sovereign Grant.

Of that income, in excess of £5.6 million is listed in the Annual Review as, in part, funding the activities of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Prince William and Kate) and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (Prince Harry and Meghan).

If, given the apparent difficulties in their relationship at the moment, Prince Charles were to make a will excluding Prince Harry, hypothetically, would it be open to Prince Harry to make a claim against his father’s estate on the grounds that reasonable financial provision had not been made for him?

Standing to bring a claim

Prince Harry would be an adult child of the Deceased. Under section 1 (c) of the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (“the 1975 Act”) he would be a person entitled to make a claim against his father’s estate.

Claims which are made by parties who are not spouses are limited to maintenance but, as established above, Prince Harry would be able to point to his father having provided what we assume to be his main source of income up until last year.

How would a claim be decided?

A court will have to consider and balance a number of factors when looking at whether to make an award to an individual under the 1975 Act. Those factors are set out at section 3 of the 1975 Act and include the below which are likely to be relevant to consider in this scenario:

  1. the financial needs and resources of the applicant;
  2. the size and nature of the Deceased’s estate; and
  3. any other matter which the court may deem relevant, including the conduct of an applicant.

Financial needs and resources

Now that Prince Harry is no longer a ‘working Royal’ carrying out work on behalf of the Crown, it is conceivable that his overall expenditure needs may have reduced.

In respect of his own resources, he confirmed during the Opera interview that he received what is likely to have been a substantial inheritance from the estate of his mother, the late Princess Diana. That he had such capital resources of his own available to him would be taken into account by the court, as would the income he and his wife are to receive from their recently announced Netflix and Spotify deals.

As Prince Harry and Meghan are married, Meghan’s own income and capital resources would also fall into consideration.

Although he may have significant wealth of his own, that does not mean of itself that he would be unable to pursue a claim. Each claim will be considered on its own merits. His public profile and that of his wife, might for example lead a Judge to consider it was reasonable for him to incur the cost of some items of expenditure which would be unusual for most applicants to seek, such as the requirement to employ security personnel.

Size and nature of the estate

A Judge will have to consider the assets of the estate. In some cases where a Judge might consider a Claimant’s claim has merit, they may still consider they are unable to make an award, or reduce the amount that they award to the Claimant because there are insufficient assets in an estate to ensure that the competing needs of other beneficiaries are met. 

Based on his father’s annual income and that his father has been in receipt of that income for a number of years, it is a reasonable assumption to suggest that there would be an extremely large estate available for Prince Harry to claim against so this would be unlikely to be a key factor for a Judge to consider.

Any other matter which the court may deem relevant, including the conduct of an applicant.

It is entirely conceivable that a Judge may consider that Prince Harry’s decision to no longer act as a working Royal, and that a large part of the income paid to him by Prince Charles was predicated upon him carrying out that role, would be a relevant factor for consideration. The passage of time might also be a relevant consideration. If Prince Charles were to pass away now, having maintained his son for a number of years previously, a Judge may well consider a claim by Prince Harry to have more merit than if he were to pass away in 10 years’ time and there had therefore been a 10 year gap in providing an income to his son. 


It appears that, if Prince Charles were to make a will excluding Prince Harry, his son would have good grounds upon which to pursue a claim under the 1975 Act against his estate, having been maintaining him until very recently and for a number of years prior. However, that does not automatically mean that such a claim would be successful. Each case will turn on its own facts and, as they must do in every claim of this nature, a Judge would have to consider the factors set out at section 3 of the 1975 Act in order to determine firstly, whether to make an award and, if so, the size of any such award.​​​​​​

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Written by:

Ian Johnston is a Partner located in Manchester in our Will and Trust Disputes department

View other posts by Ian Johnston

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