Posted on 23rd May 2016

What have Celebrity Deaths Taught us about Wills and Estate Planning?

Natalie Palmer, Director at Latimer Hinks Solicitors
Natalie Palmer, Director at Latimer Hinks Solicitors

2016 has seen a number of celebrity deaths leaving fans and, of course, family in mourning.

Leaving aside for a moment the sadness, nostalgia and deserved tributes, leading law firm Latimer Hinks is hoping that the spate of celebrity deaths will lead to an increasing willingness to talk about death, dying and bereavement, including putting in place necessary plans to ensure that loved ones dont face uncertainty, unnecessary tax bills or, at worst, distressing disputes over an estate or a will.

Here, Latimer Hinks Director Natalie Palmer, runs through lessons to be learned from celebrity estate planning.

David Bowie

The Starman was very clear about his funeral wishes and about which of his loved ones should benefit from his estate. In accordance with Bowies wishes, there was no funeral held for him. Instead, his close family scattered his ashes following a Buddhist ceremony in Bali. He left an estate of £70m to his wife, Iman, and his two children, along with leaving £1.4m to his long-standing assistant and £700,000 to the nanny to his eldest child. Along with a 25% share in his estate, a property near Woodstock went to his 15-year-old daughter Alexandria and his 44-year-old son Duncan also received 25%. The remaining 50% goes to Iman along with other properties, including their Manhattan apartment.

Ronnie Corbett

Popular entertainer Ronnie Corbett is said to have sold his £1.3m home to prevent his children from facing a six-figure inheritance tax bill. Corbett, who died after losing a battle with motor neurone disease, sold his seven-bedroom London home in 2003 and moved to a nearby bungalow worth £250,000. It is thought he and his wife may have gifted their two daughters, Sophie and Emma, cash from the sale of the property so that they would not have to pay 40 per cent Inheritance Tax. Inheritance Tax is payable on estates worth more than £325,000, or £650,000 for a couple. Cash gifts may not be subject to Inheritance Tax provided that the person making the gift lives for seven years from the date the gifts are made.

David Cameron

While David Camerons mother may not be a celebrity, details in his personal tax records, released following the Panama Papers revelations, also threw the spotlight on tax planning. Mary Cameron gifted £200,000 to David in two separate payments. By making the monetary gifts, provided that Mrs Cameron lives for a further seven years, David should avoid the paying Inheritance Tax on that sum.


Music legend Prince died suddenly and, so far, it is not clear if he left a will setting out wishes for his £200m estate. He wouldnt be the first celebrity to die without a will. If state law (where he lived in Minnesota) does end up dictating who gets what, his siblings will most likely inherit everything as he died unmarried and without living parents or children. While no one likes to think about dying young, it highlights the importance of making out a will whatever your age.

Lynda Bellingham

Sadly, Lynda Bellinghams death two years ago seems to have pushed her loved ones apart. Her sons are this year still embroiled in a legal battle with their stepfather Michael Pattemore over their late mothers will. Sons Michael and Robbie Peluso acknowledge that everything was left by their mother to Mr Pattemore in her will, but say they believe it was her intention that they would be looked after and left financially secure.

Everyone should draw up a will and, most importantly, keep it under review, making their intentions as clear as possible. Recent cases have highlighted the importance of not just setting out your wishes, but of justifying them.

While celebrities may be set apart from the rest of us because of their fame and, in many cases, their wealth, no one can avoid the inevitable and everyone, famous or not, should plan for their death and all that such loss involves to family and friends.


Please note: This article is intended as guidance only and does not constitute advice, financial or otherwise. No responsibility for loss occasioned/costs arising as a result of any act/failure to act on the basis of this article can be accepted by Latimer Hinks.