The gospel of celebrity wealth: Don't leave it to the kids
Nigella Lawson's domestic goddess reputation took a hit when she declared earlier this year that she did not plan to leave her two children from her first husband, deceased journalist John Diamond, with much of her cookbook and TV show fortune. Lawson, an heiress to J. Lyons and Co. food empire in England and wife of super wealthy ad guy Charles Saatchi, told My Weekly that she was "determined that my children should have no financial security. It ruins people not having to earn money." But a few months later, she had to backtrack a bit after the ensuing outcry, saying she "had no intention of leaving my children destitute, but I believe you have to work in order to learn the value of money."
Warren Buffett may currently be #2 of the Forbes 400 Richest Americans, but don't congratulate his three children. The savvy investor, who built Berkshire Hathaway into a multi-billion dollar juggernaut, has promised to give away most of his fortune because, he has said, "a rich person should leave his kids enough to do anything but not enough to do nothing." In fact, the Omaha, Nebraska native has already started. In 2006, he promised a majority of his Berkshire shares to charity, with a good chunk going to the foundation of good pal Bill Gates. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has received $6 billion worth of shares to date.
Speaking of Bill Gates, he too has promised to give away most of his Microsoft billions. He and wife Melinda established a foundation in 1994 and have been giving away truckloads of money ever since to tackle health, education and hunger around the world. On Oct. 5, Gates told CNN that he thinks inherited wealth creates a distorted view of "how you measure yourself, how your friends think about you and how they do things with you. And it's also bad for society. We're picking the grandchildren of the people whose skill and luck accumulated the money and saying to them, they should have this vast control of society's resources. I just don't think that's a great way to run a society. "
Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber doesn't believe in spoiling his kids. The Brit, who gained fame and fortune from such hits as Phantom of the Opera and Cats, has said his five kids from two different wives shouldn't expect much of a free ride. "I am not in favor of children suddenly finding a lot of money coming their way because then they have no incentive to work," Webber, who is estimated to be worth some $1 billion, told the Mirror on Oct. 6. "So I will give them a start in life but they ain't going to end up owning [his company] the Really Useful Group."
Paris Hilton's grandfather, hotel magnate William Barron Hilton, made headlines when he announced in late 2007 that he had bequeathed nearly all of his $2.3 billion fortune to a foundation started by his father, Conrad. "My father left 97% of his wealth to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, and I am proud to follow my father's example," he said. Of course, he didn't mention that about 20 years earlier, he sued his father's estate after being left only a small portion. Years of legal wrangling ensued, but he ultimately scored 60% of the income from his father's estate for life, with the other 40% going to the foundation. But don't cry for Paris. Since the reality TV series The Simple Life, the celebutante has become a remarkably successful businesswoman. According to Forbes magazine, she made $7 million in 2005-2006.
Anita Roddick's two daughters knew since they were teenagers that their mom wanted to give away her Body Shop fortune to charity. So when she died at the age of 64 in 2007, some $76 million flowed into the Roddick Foundation. But don't expect the two young women to show up in court to overthrow their mom's will. Said Sam, "If my mum had said to me, 'I'm not leaving the money to you but I've decided to give it all to a distant cousin,' then I would have found that offensive. But giving it all to charity is different. You can't argue about someone giving their money away, can you?" She added, "They've already given us everything in terms of love and support."
Leona Helmsley lived up to her title of the Queen of Mean. When the real estate mogul died in August 2007 at the age of 87, she bequeathed two of her grandchildren $10 million each as long as they visited their father's grave at least once a year. The other two grandchildren were disinherited "for reasons which are known to them." But the bulk of her estate went to the dogs, literally. Her will established a $12 million trust for the care of her dog, Trouble, and the rest, estimated to be worth nearly $8 billion, went to the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, whose sole aim is the care of dogs. Of course, the two disinherited grandchildren didn't take it lying down. They sued and ultimately received $4 million and $2 million each.
Gene Simmons of the rock group Kiss doesn't want his two kids to end up like a lot of rock 'n roll progeny: broke with no idea how to support themselves. So he's cutting them off -- sort of. The star of the reality TV show Gene Simmons: Family Jewels told Michael Eisner on his show in 2007 that his children with longtime partner Shannon Tweed "are gonna be taken care of, but they will never be rich off my money. Because every year they should be forced to get up out of bed and go out and work and make their own way." How's he going to do it? They'll receive a yearly allowance covering basics like rent and food but "if you want riches, you should do that yourself." Simmons adds, "I don't want them to say, 'Thanks dad, for making me rich.' No, you wanna be able to stand on your own two feet and say, 'I did that.'"
You've seen her face on countless magazines. After all, she's one half of Brangelina, the name celebrity magazines coined when Angelina Jolie took up with Brad Pitt. And sure, she's an Oscar winning actress and has become mother to a jaw-dropping six children in five years. But she is also an activist and philanthropist. When she and Pitt scored $14 million for pictures of their twins, Vivienne and Knox, they placed the money into their Jolie-Pitt Foundation. Just two years ago, when their first biological child, Shiloh, was born, they were paid more than $7 million, which also went to charity. It's not clear how much she and Pitt will leave their children, but meanwhile, they are busy giving away their fortunes. In 2006, Jolie donated more than $3 million and Pitt over $4 million to the Jolie-Pitt Foundation, which in turn made gifts to charities like Doctors Without Borders, Global AIDS Alliance, and the Daniel Pearl Foundation. She also established in 2008 a TB/AIDS clinic in Ethiopia, where her eldest daughter, Zahara, was born. She told Hello magazine that she hopes Zahara will manage it when she grows up.
And last, but not least...Andrew Carnegie. The steel magnate has been dead for nearly 90 years but his legacy lives on. Perhaps his most lasting and influential contribution has been his belief that after you've accumulated your fortune, you must give it away rather than leaving it to your descendents. He certainly lived by what he wrote in The Gospel of Wealth: By the time he died in 1919, he had given away billions of dollars to build thousands of public libraries, Carnegie Mellon University, Carnegie Hall in New York City, and a pension fund for workers now known as TIAA-CREF. For his family, he left behind a modest trust.