Prince Charles makes £1m from poorly-planned deaths


Prince Charles samples Cornish aleDavid Jones/PA Wire/Press Association Images

It has emerged that an odd quirk in inheritance laws means that in the last six years, Prince Charles has made an astonishing £1 million from the estates of people who have died without making a will.

So how has he got this cash, and can that be right?

Odd law

The strange quirk emerged with the publication of the accounts of the Duchy of Cornwall - which showed that he made £552,000 from this power last year alone.

It comes from a centuries-old law, which is part of the rules of intestacy. If you die without making a will, your estate is assigned according to certain rules. Your spouse will benefit and any children, if they're not around it passes to their descendants.

If you don't have a spouse or children, it passes up the family tree to parents and siblings. If there's no-one left there it passes to parents' siblings and their descendants. If there is no-one who fits any of these criteria, it passes to the state.

In Cornwall, it goes to Prince Charles.

Duchy of Cornwall

It's part of his rights as the Duke of Cornwall - which was the title given to the eldest son of the monarch in the 13th century. He gets a swathe of land with the title - much of it in Cornwall - but also includes the Oval and the Isles of Scilly. He also gets the right to rental income from those with property on his land, plus the estates of those who die intestate. In all, his income from the Duchy was £18.3 million last year.

Anti-monarchy group Republic, has been campaigning for an end to the Duchy. Graham Smith, chief executive said that all the assets of the Duchy "rightly belong to the nation" and called for these funds to be paid to the Treasury as they are everywhere else in the UK. He added: "The Duchy does not belong to the royal family, there is no justification for millions of pounds of public revenue being handed to Charles every year."

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However, it's worth bearing in mind that Prince Charles personally chooses not to profit from death, and for the last 40 years he has donated the cash to charity.

Over the last seven years, The Duke of Cornwall's Benevolent Fund has donated nearly £800,000 to projects close to his heart, such as the environment, community projects, art, religion and education. For example, in 2001, it donated £100,000 to farmers in the South West after the devastation of Foot and Mouth disease.

And while there are those who would argue that his income is unearned and unfair, there are others who highlight that maybe he needs the cash. His accounts were revealed in June this year, and it emerged he spent over £20 million during the year - £700,000 more than a year earlier thanks to the Royal Wedding and the 'cost of Kate'.

It included an impressive £35,000 on clothes for his new daughter-in-law. Plus, of course, someone has to pay for his three chauffeurs, five chefs and kitchen porters, two valets and 19 gardeners and estate workers.

But what do you think? Should the Treasury get the cash, or does the charity spend the cash just as wisely? Let us know in the comments.

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