Which Billionaires are Disinheriting Their Children?
6 min read

Which Billionaires are Disinheriting Their Children?

What does it mean to disinherit someone? In this article, we'll discuss a few famous billionaires such as Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg, and their reasoning for disinheriting their children. Keep reading to learn more!

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Bill Gates

Bill Gates is not only the co-founder of Microsoft, he’s one of the world’s biggest philanthropists. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was started in 2000 and is dedicated to global health initiatives, supporting vaccination, education, and poverty alleviation efforts around the world. Bill and Melinda divorced in 2022 after 27 years of marriage but still manage the foundation together.  Despite their differences, they apparently agree on not leaving all of their money to their three children. 

Gates has said that he thinks it's important for wealthy people to use their resources to make a positive impact on society, rather than just passing down their wealth to the next generation. He has said that he believes in a "dynastic philanthropy," where wealthy families use their resources to create foundations and initiatives that can continue to do good work for generations to come.

In a Reddit AMA in 2013, Gates wrote, "I definitely think leaving kids massive amounts of money is not a favor to them. Warren Buffett was part of an article in Fortune talking about this in 1986 before I met him and it made me think about it and decide he was right."

With that in mind, Gates and Buffett launched the Giving Pledge in 2010. The Pledge is an initiative that encourages wealthy individuals and families to commit to giving away the majority of their wealth to philanthropic causes during their lifetime or in their will. As of 2021, more than 200 individuals and families from around the world have joined the Giving Pledge.

Andrew Lloyd Webber

Andrew Lloyd Webber is a British composer and impresario known for his musicals, including "The Phantom of the Opera," "Cats," and "Evita." Webber has expressed the belief that inherited wealth can be detrimental to one's character and work ethic.

In a 2010 interview with the Daily Mail, Lloyd Webber said, "I don’t believe in inherited money at all. I am not in favor of children suddenly finding a lot of money coming their way because then they have no incentive to work. I think it’s very important to set an example for your children and to make them realize they have to work for their living."

I guess that means Lloyd Webber will simply leave his kids with nothing but “memory, all alone in the moonlight!” 

Lloyd Webber has also been a philanthropist, supporting a variety of causes related to the arts and education. In 1992, he founded the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation, which provides grants to support arts education, access, and participation in the UK.

Mark Zuckerberg

In March of 2023, Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder and CEO of Facebook, announced that his wife Priscilla Chan had just given birth to their third daughter, Aurelia.  But Aurelia won’t be inheriting her famous father’s wealth. In 2015, Zuckerberg and Chan announced that he and Priscilla would give away 99% of their Facebook shares over their lifetime, which at the time was valued at around $45 billion, to support charitable causes. 

As part of this commitment, Zuckerberg also announced that he would not be leaving an inheritance to his children, Maxima and August. In a letter addressed to his daughter Maxima, which he posted on Facebook, Zuckerberg explained that he believed his responsibility as a parent was to leave a better world for his children, rather than just leaving them money.

Zuckerberg wrote, "I will give 99% of my Facebook shares - currently about $45 billion - during my lifetime to join many others in improving this world for the next generation. Today your mother and I are committing to spend our lives doing our small part to help solve these challenges."

He went on to say, "We will give our money to fund great research, but also to build new tools and platforms for people to connect, learn, and share. We will donate to causes that help people in need - economic, scientific, and social. We will do our part to make this happen, not only because we love you, but because we have a moral responsibility to all children in the next generation."

Zuckerberg's decision not to leave an inheritance to his children has been both praised and criticized. Some have applauded his commitment to giving back to society and leaving a positive impact on the world, while others have questioned the practicality of the decision and the potential impact it could have on his children's future. And let’s not forget that 1 percent of $45 billion is still $465 million, so the daughters will not exactly be destitute, nor will they have to work.  They are already learning the value of work though; Priscilla said that August has been coding with her father since she was age three. 

Chuck Feeney

Chuck Feeney takes frugality, philanthropy, and disinheritance to a whole new level. In 1960 Feeney co-founded the Duty Free Shoppers Group, a chain of duty-free shops that sell luxury goods to travelers. Duty Free Shoppers Group was an instant success and eventually had stores in airports all over the world. Despite his immense wealth, Feeney has always been a deeply private and frugal person. He lived in a modest apartment in San Francisco for many years, and often flew economy class and ate in cheap restaurants. He was known to wear a $15 watch and carry his papers in a plastic bag. 

Feeney started aggressively giving away his money starting in 1982 after founding a charitable organization called Atlantic Philanthropies. Over the years, he has donated billions of dollars to support his favorite causes like education, healthcare, and human rights around the world. He has been a major supporter of universities in Ireland, Vietnam, and the United States, and has funded the construction of hospitals, schools, and community centers in many countries.  Forbes called Feeney the “James Bond of Philanthropy” because he gave away at least $8 billion. In 2020, Atlantic Philanthropies ended its operations after giving away Feeney’s entire fortune. 

Feeney is in his 90s and now lives a simple life in a rented apartment in San Francisco. Feeney’s philosophy, which he called Giving While Living, inspired other billionaires to start giving away money before they die. And yes, Feeney did disinherit his four children. His daughter Leslie told the New York Times, “It is eccentric, but he sheltered us from people using the money to treat us differently. It made us normal people.”

Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett is one of the wealthiest people in the world, with a net worth of over $100 billion. Although it is often reported that he won’t leave his kids a dime, in reality, he is said to have pledged his three adult kids about $2 billion of his fortune. In the 80s, when the kids were younger, he said he wanted them to have ”’enough money so that they would feel they could do anything, but not so much that they could do nothing.″ (I don’t know about Buffett’s kids, but most of us could certainly afford to do absolutely nothing if we inherited $2 billion!)

Buffett’s example has inspired other wealthy people for decades. He founded the Giving Pledge with Bill and Melinda Gates. Buffett has also been a major supporter of the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, which was named after his first wife and supports reproductive health initiatives and scholarships for low-income students. Buffet has also pledged to give away his Berkshire Hathaway stock over time, rather than leaving it to his children. 

Michael Bloomberg

Michael Bloomberg is an American businessman, politician, and philanthropist. He is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, a financial data and media company, and served as the Mayor of New York City from 2002 to 2013. Bloomberg joined the Giving Pledge, explaining his rationale for not giving his money to his children.

“If you want to do something for your children and show how much you love them, the single best thing — by far — is to support organizations that will create a better world for them and their children.”

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