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Don’t be a Princess Di When Attempting to be Generous After Death

What people don’t realize is that Princess Di had over 17 godchildren when she died and she was thoughtful enough to provide for each and every one of them. She left the godchildren personal property items totaling in the aggregate over $152,000.00! That’s the Princess Di we remember!

But, of course, there was a problem.

Princess Di did not provide for them in her Will, which she is commended for having, but rather in a “letter of wishes”. This ‘letter of wishes’ also stated that the property was to be distributed among the beneficiaries “at the discretion of the executors”. So what happened? You guessed it. The executors interpreted “discretion” as more for someone else and less for you. The godchildren received only “trinkets” on nominal value. The ‘letter of wishes’ quickly turned into a ‘letter of ashes’.

Princess Di could have locked in this generous transfer to her godchildren by including the specific property and selected beneficiaries in her Will but she didn’t.

Or, she could have drawn up her Will in such a way to say, in so many words, “if I draw up a separate document which says what to do with specific items of property, I want that document honored as if I had put those terms in my Will.” This is common language today in most Wills in Minnesota. Does your Will say that? Better check.   Had Princess Di included these personal property items in this latter fashion she would have always reserved the right to later exclude any godchild heard to be bragging “my godmother is Princess Di. Who do you got?” And she could have done this without seeing a lawyer (that should have been incentive enough!)

This option is available to you if your Will is up to date. And, even if it does contain this option, forget for the moment about the poor godchildren (they probably sold their Princess Di trinkets on ebay for gazillions anyway). Ask yourself—“do I have grandchildren that I wish to provide for?” If so, don’t mess it up. Make sure your Will has the right language and get those grandkids in there!