Paul Daniels left less than £500,000 when he died

Paul Daniels death
Paul Daniels death

Magician and television personality Paul Daniels left an estate worth less than £500,000, after debts and costs of more than £1 million were paid.

The entertainer's wife, Debbie McGee, was famously once asked by Mrs Merton: "So, what first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?" However, it seems that his net worth at the time of his death was a lot less than many people might have assumed.

The 77-year-old died of cancer in March, having been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour just a month before.

He left the bulk of his estate to Debbie, who worked as his stage assistant, and to whom he'd been married for 28 years. But while the gross value of his estate was more than £1.5 million, the net value amounted to just under £500,000.

Born Newton Edward Daniels in 1938, Daniels' interest in magic was sparked as a child by a book entitled How to Entertain at Parties. He became obsessed with becoming a stage magician, and after years of practice and touring northern clubs, he finally became a full time entertainer in 1969.

His move to television came via the talent show Opportunity Knocks, and in 1978, ITV gave him his own Sunday night television show. He later moved to the BBC with the Paul Daniels Magic Show, which ran for 15 years.

In one notorious trick, he faked his own death by pretending to fail at the famous Iron Maiden escape, inspired by Harry Houdini. As he stepped into a metal box and was apparently skewered with metal spikes, the TV screen went dark; even his family wasn't warned it was a trick.

He and Debbie lived in a £2.5 million pound home on the bank of the River Thames in the village of Wargrave in Berkshire, which he described as 'paradise'.

While celebrities' wealth is often very visible, the scale of their debts is not, and it's easy to get the wrong impression. This summer, for example, it emerged that while Peaches Geldof had assets of £884,274 at the time of her death, more than half of that was eaten up by debt.