Did Princess Diana's Mother Really Change Her Will After Her Death?

Princess Diana, born The Honourable Diana Frances Spencer, was only 36 when she was killed in a car crash in Paris in 1997. Even though she was by then divorced from Prince Charles, the future King of England, she was still considered a member of the royal family, according to The Royal Family website. As a woman in her position — with two children who were literally princes and a large estate — naturally, she had an estate plan. 

According to Trust & Will, when she died, Diana's estate was worth more than $30 million, or £21,711,485 in English pounds. Per her wishes, she wanted to leave £50,000, or roughly $70,000 to her butler and friend, Paul Burrell. About $1.4 million was put into a fund with Diana's famous clothing, including her wedding dress, all meant to go to her sons, William and Harry, and their future wives and children and to "special charities," per Trust & Will. 

For her 17 godchildren, Diana left sentimental items, many of which likely would have had some monetary value — things like paintings, china, and photographs. What was left of her estate was to be divided equally between her William and Harry when they reached a certain age. 

But Diana also had an addendum to her will the day after she signed it — a "letter of wishes" according to Style — in which she left 1/4 of the worth of her personal belongings to her godchildren. 

Diana'a mother and sister took her letter of wishes to court

In the letter, she asked, "to give effect as soon as possible, but not later than two years, following my death to any written memorandum or notes of wishes of mine."

Princess Diana's wishes, according to Style, were that three-quarters of her personal belongs be passed down to her sons, and the remaining quarter divided between her many godchildren. But according to Trust & Will, the executors of the will, Diana's mother, The Honourable Frances Ruth Shand Kydd, and her sister, The Lady Elizabeth Sarah Lavinia McCorquodale, went to court to challenge her wishes — and won. 

One change they made was for Harry and William to wait until the age of 30 rather than 25 to receive their inheritances, and the second is that her 17 godchildren ended up each receiving one item of Diana's which according to Trust & Will and Style was described as a "tacky memento."

What's more, the families of the godchildren did not know about Diana's wishes until years later, not realizing she had left a quarter of her belongings to be divided between them all. According to Altman Associates, had the godchildren been granted what Diana had tried to leave them, they would have inherited about $160,000 each. Per Altman Associates, the letter of wishes did not hold up in court, as it was not an official legal document.