VanNess & VanNess, P.A.

Why family fortunes aren't necessarily being passed down

When it comes to the children of wealthy families, the traditional line of thinking has always been that they have it easy, meaning they won't ever have worry about finding work, spending money or paying off debt.

While this is, of course, true in many circumstances, it's important to acknowledge that a growing number of families here in the U.S. are actually making the conscious decision not to divide their fortunes among their children, but rather leave the majority of their money to charity.

It's important to understand, however, that this estate planning strategy isn't undertaken out of malevolence, but rather out of a desire to leave the world a better place by funding worthy causes and, on a more personal level, helping instill certain values among heirs.

If you find all this hard to believe, consider the following real world examples of scions of billionaire families who won't be inheriting the entirety of their family fortunes:

  • Warren Buffett: The CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, worth an estimated $70 billion, has vowed to give away 99 percent of his money to charitable causes during his lifetime and after his death.
  • Bill and Melinda Gates: The founder of Microsoft and his spouse, worth an estimated $79 billion, have vowed to provide each of their three children with $10M and give the remainder of their money to their charitable foundation.
  • George Lucas: The Star Wars and Indiana Jones creator, worth an estimated $4 billion, has vowed to give away the majority of his money to funding educational causes.   

What all of this serves to underscore is that anyone -- regardless of whether they are a billionaire -- looking to accomplish these unique and admirable estate planning objectives will want to consider consulting with an experienced legal professional who can help ensure that everything proceeds exactly as planned

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