All About Estates

Leaving a Lasting Impression and Making a Difference

Today’s blog is being brought to you by guest blogger, Jennifer Campbell, a law clerk in the Private Client Services group of Fasken LLP.

When a celebrity dies, outside of the cause of death, it seems the first thing that is reported is what their net worth was at the time of their death and what is being left to family.

Recently, Marie Osmond made headlines when she announced that it is her intention not to leave any money to her children when she dies.  While discussing Kirk Douglas’ passing with her co-hosts on “The Talk” and the reports that he had left a large portion of his $80 million dollar estate to charity (the Douglas Foundation), Marie stated that it would be “a great disservice to your children to just hand them a fortune because you take away the one most important gift you can give your children and that’s the ability to work”.  She continued by saying that “you see it a lot in rich families where the kids, they don’t know what to do and so they get in trouble.  Let them be proud of what they make…”

Apparently, intentionally planning on disinheriting your children is more common than you would think among individuals who have established a significant net worth during their lifetime.  Other notable celebrities who have left or plan to leave nothing to their children include, Chef Nigella Lawson, Jackie Chan, Sting, George Lucas, Ted Turner, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.

  • Chef Nigella Lawson, worked hard to build her business. Having been born into a wealthy family herself, Chef Lawson would much prefer to leave her children without a financial safety net and have them work hard for their own successes commenting that “it ruins people not having to earn money”.
  • George Lucas who received $4.5 billion from the sale of his Star Wars franchise to Disney almost 10 years ago, has committed to donating the proceeds to improve education for future generations of students.
  • Ted Turner, who is estimated to be worth $2.1 billion dollars, set up the Turner Foundation, which is a family foundation allowing his children to participate in charitable work. With an initial pledge of $1 billion dollars, Ted launched the United Nations Foundation and plans to leave his wealth to charity at the time he passes away.
  • Warren Buffett has been quite vocal about not wanting to leave an inheritance to his family, including his 3 children. He has pledged to give away 99% of his estimated $89 billion to charity and has gone so far as to encourage other billionaires to give away at least 50% of their wealth through The Giving Pledge.  According to its website, in 2020, there are 207 pledgers registered with The Giving Pledge, representing 23 countries worldwide, including Canada.
  • Bill Gates, has been quoted as saying that leaving his fortune to his children would be a mistake. Inspired by Warren Buffett, Bill plans to leave the vast majority of his fortune to his own charity, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

While Marie Osmond’s current net worth, is significantly lower than that of the individuals noted above, just imagine the lasting impact that a charitable gift from individuals with the means, whether they are celebrities or not, would have on the world.  Whether the donation is for fighting climate change, ending poverty, providing education to those who cannot afford it or whatever cause is near and dear to that individual, any gift of significance would leave a lasting impact on others and for future generations.

As Winston Churchill once said: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give”.

Or as John D. Rockerfeller has said: “Giving should be entered into in just the same way as investing.  Giving is investing”.

About Corina Weigl
Corina Weigl is a partner in the Trusts, Wills, Estates and Charities group at Fasken, a leading international law firm with over 650 lawyers and 9 offices worldwide that offers comprehensive estate planning, estate administration, personal tax planning, charitable giving and estate litigation services. Email: cweigl@fasken.com

1 Comment

  1. Holly Ann Knott

    March 13, 2020 - 5:08 pm
    Reply

    Great article. I’ll add a shout out to Community Foundations for the less rich who still would like to be charitable at death. A donation to a community foundation can accomplish one’s wishes without one having to do extensive labout in creating the “infrastructure” of a personal foundation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *