All About Estates

A Royal Estate

This Blog was written by: Alicia Mossington (Godin), Estate and Trust Consultant, Scotia Wealth Management 

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh was born on June 10th, 1921 and passed away on April 9th 2021, at the age of 99. The Duke was born Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark but abandoned these titles and styles, becoming a naturalized British subject before his engagement to Elizabeth (as she then was). Philip had four children with Queen Elizabeth: Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward.[1]

Succession is always a question for the royal family and one question posed now is: Who will inherit Prince Philips estate? Celebrity Net Worth reports that Prince Phillip was worth about $30 million.[2] It has not been confirmed whether he left a Will, but intestate or not there will be some estate planning implications.

Canada continues to have many connections to the United Kingdom. Although Canada is a sovereign state, we remain a member of the Commonwealth. This connection remains apparent in many of the laws and customs practiced today, including wills, estates and civil procedure. For example, judgments granted by a court in the United Kingdom will generally be accepted by the Ontario court upon application.[3] Consider also the administration bond requirement in Ontario. In Ontario, an executor must post an administration bond as security[4] if they are “not resident in Ontario or elsewhere in the Commonwealth.”[5]

The formal validity requirements to make a Will in England are similar to Ontario. For a Will to be legally valid in England, the testator must be over the age of 18, be of sound mind, make the Will voluntarily. The Will must be in writing, signed in the presence of two witnesses, who must be over the age of 18 and also sign the Will.

There are similarities and differences in both the formal validity requirements to make a Will, and rules and restrictions around inheritance and taxation on death.

Inheritance laws in the United Kingdom vary across each individual country, much like the differences in each commonwealth country. In England and Wales there is no forced heirship, and people are generally free to leave their property to whomever they wish by making a Last Will and Testament. This is true in Canada as well, apart from family law obligations. Countries outside the Commonwealth, such as France, often have forced heirship, requiring testators to leave some, all or specific types of property, to blood relatives.

Although there is no inheritance tax in Canada, provinces do impose an estate administration tax (“probate tax”). In England there is an inheritance tax on the estate, although the inheritance tax may not be required in certain circumstances, for example:

  • if the value of the estate is below the “threshold” of £325,000 (approx.. $560,000 CAD); or
  • if the testator left the balance exceeding £325,000.00 to their spouse, civil partner, a charity or a community amateur sports club.

…. the threshold varies in certain circumstances and there are special rules when a home is transferred to children or grandchildren, as well as when estates below the threshold are transferred to a surviving spouse or partner. [6]

According to royal author David McClure, it would be most efficient for Prince Philip to transfer his estate to his spouse, the Queen, in which case “there would be no tax to pay on it.”[7] There is some speculation that at least some of the wealth may be transferred to their children, although as of writing the Royal Family had not officially confirmed the details of the Will (or indeed if there was one).[8]

This (non-royal) author is more interested to know who will bear the responsibility of executor for the royal estate.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_Philip,_Duke_of_Edinburgh.

[2] Prince Philip’s Multi-Million Dollar Estate (The List) retrieved from: https://www.thelist.com/382576/heres-where-prince-philips-multi-million-dollar-estate-will-go/.

[3] Rules of Civil Procedure, RRO 1990, Reg 194, r. 73.01- 73.03

[4] ibid, rule 74.04

[5] Estates Act, RSO 1990, c. E. 21, s. 6

[6] Inheritance Tax. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/inheritance-tax. Accessed 19 April 2021.

[7] Supra note 2.

[8] Hassan, Beril. “Did Prince Philip leave a will?” (Metro News, 2021). Retrieved from: https://metro.co.uk/2021/04/09/did-prince-philip-leave-a-will-and-is-it-common-for-royals-to-have-one-14384743/.

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