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Should you include King Charles in your Will?

Updated: Apr 20, 2023

Recently, the dispute between Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the Disney Corporation over control of the Reedy Creek District generated headlines when it was discovered that Disney and the outgoing board of directors made an agreement that stripped the incoming board of several important powers.

However, it is the indirect involvement of the Royal Family that has captured the public’s attention. The agreement in question is held in place by something called a Royal Lives Clause which states that the agreement may only be terminated decades “after the death of the last survivor of the descendants of King Charles III, King of England living as of the date of this declaration.”

Once upon a time, there was a King* who made a will that would bind his descendants’ hands for generations to come. His son, the young Prince**, fought the validity of these constraints and won an important court battle that established the “Rule Against Perpetuities” which holds that an agreement can’t last forever, and people long dead should not control property from beyond the grave. Therefore, a “measuring life” is used to determine when an agreement will no longer have legal effect. In this case, the measuring life of King Charles III is used because as a Royal, it is theoretically easy to identify who his living children and grandchildren are now and ascertain if they are still alive in the future.

The Rule Against Perpetuities also applies to your Estate Plan. Whether you have a will, a trust, or even a beneficiary designation, at some point in the distant future your agreements and contracts will be obsolete. Is including a Royal Lives Clause necessary to give your estate plan maximum effect? No, not really. You can choose anyone for the measuring life clause. In the Estate Plans I prepare, I usually make the measuring life of an unnamed individual by stating that the agreement shall be void “21 years after the death of the last survivor of any descendants living at the time of death.” This has a similar effect to a Royal Lives clause without being a Royal pain to understand.

Speak with an Estate Planning Attorney today to make sure you have the strongest and most up-to-date Estate Plan possible, and not one that will have your descendants singing “God Save the King” for the foreseeable future.

*Actually, an Earl

**Actually, a Duke


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