HM Insights

Prince Harry was allegedly cut off from his family financially – but is this even possible?

It will surely have been difficult for any of us to have missed the news of Harry and Meghan's tell-all interview this week, during which numerous allegations were made. One notable such comment was Harry's revelation that his family cut him off financially in early 2020 following the announcement that he and his wife would step back as senior members of The Royal Family.

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Harry also revealed that he and his immediate family only managed to make their move to the US with the help of the inheritance left to him by his late mother– and of course, their new ventures with Netflix and Spotify will surely assist going forward.

As a result many might be wondering if it is indeed possible to entirely cut off your family, and more specifically your children, whether as a result of a family fall out – or, as in Harry's case, a departure from the family business. We do not know what Harry might be set to inherit one day via his father's Will, but could Charles cut him off in this regard too?

Rules of Inheritance in Scotland

In Scotland, everyone is entitled to leave their estate to whoever they wish by putting a Will in place. If someone dies without a Will, then the law sets out who will be entitled to their estate.  In both scenarios (i.e. if someone dies with or without a Will) any surviving children have an automatic entitlement to a share of the estate. In addition, if any children have predeceased and are survived by their own children, those children will benefit in their parent's place. This entitlement, known as "Legal Rights", is automatic and cannot be overruled via the terms of a Will. If a Will is in place, someone claiming their Legal Rights is not a challenge to the Will.  The Will still stands, but an adjustment to the sums being distributed would be required.

In Harry's case, if Charles died domiciled in Scotland, Harry would have an automatic entitlement via his Legal Rights to share in Charles's moveable estate (everything other than buildings or land). The extent of Harry's entitlement would depend on whether Charles was also survived by his wife Camilla and/or by William (or George, Charlotte and Louis in William's place, should William predecease). If Charles's Will did make provision for Harry, Harry would need to choose whether to receive that left to him under the terms of the Will, or to instead receive his Legal Rights.

In short, if Charles was domiciled in Scotland, he could not entirely cut Harry off financially although he could make changes to his estate to reduce the extent of Harry's entitlement, for example by reducing his moveable estate during life.

Rules of Inheritance in England

Legal Rights are however not an aspect of English succession law.  Here a claim can be made on an estate by certain individuals (including dependants and children) if they can satisfy the court that the Will (or the way in which the estate is to be left per the law if there is no Will) fails to make reasonable financial provision for them. Contrary to the system of Legal Rights in Scotland, there is no guarantee as to how much if anything the child might be entitled to claim.

This means that if Charles died domiciled in England, Harry would have no automatic entitlement to receive anything from his father's estate. In other words, Charles could effectively cut him off financially via the terms of his Will. Harry in turn could apply to the Court and make a claim for a provision from his father's estate, alleging that Charles did not make reasonable financial provision for him. The Court would then consider various factors, including the financial needs of the beneficiaries already named in the will.

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Harper Macleod's Private Client team can assist with all matters relative to estate planning and the administration of estates.

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Carolyn Morgan (Partner) in our Dispute Resolution team can also assist individuals or family members who wish to make a claim on a deceased's estate both north and south of the border.