Film director and restaurant critic Michael Winner had often talked about his lavish lifestyle, claiming he was worth £75 million. However, upon the announcement of his Will last month, it appears that his extravagant spending left him with an estate worth only £4.75 million and outstanding debts of £12 million.
Winner, who died in January, made no secret of his extravagant standard of living. He was known for having a multi-million-pound mansion in London and a collection of classic cars, and for spending £90,000 on his annual holiday to the Caribbean. In 2010 he admitted borrowing £9 million, all in the name of his opulent lifestyle, but he was rumoured to have borrowed even more in his pursuit of luxury. During his lifetime, Winner also claimed to have put aside "millions" in a rollover account in Guernsey, a popular offshore finance centre, but it has emerged that he ran up other debts that sharply reduced his fortune.
The Will revealed that his gross estate was worth only £16.8 million, which shrinks to just £4.75 million after debts are taken into account and before inheritance tax at 40% is considered. According to the terms of the document, his widow Geraldine would be expecting to inherit £5 million and the luxurious seven-bedroom Holland Park mansion, which was once worth £60 million but is now valued at around £20 million. One former live-in-lover, Catherine Nielson, would receive £1 million cash and a flat, while another of his former girlfriends, Paula Lombard, was left £600,000 plus the flat he had bought her while he was alive. Both women, however, are rumoured to have received huge tax demands since the flats are mortgaged.
Winner's former girlfriend Vanessa Parry, who was seen in his adverts for insurer, esure, is to inherit £12,000. His maid Lainie Manases, chauffeur Julian Whatley, PA Natalie Wright and bookkeeper Jodie Wright are said to have been left similar sums.
Geraldine Winner was quoted by the Daily Mail as saying that her late husband was thought to be a brilliant businessman, but this seems to be far from the reality.
This case highlights the importance of good estate planning. Simply having a Will is not enough - it needs to be kept up to date and should take into account your changing circumstances. We’d recommend speaking to a professional estate planner / financial advisor who can discuss your requirements and help you to decide on the best way to pass on your assets.