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How Billionaires Divide Their Wealth Upon Death

There are 614 billionaires in the United States as of 2020, with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos topping this list. Bezos reclaimed the top spot from Tesla CEO Elon Musk after shares of Tesla slipped recently. Many of them are self-made who worked hard to get to the position they’re in right now. For instance, Jeff Bezos’ biological father was a Walmart employee while his mother was a bank teller.

On the other hand, Elon Musk may have belonged to the upper-middle-class in South Africa. But he didn’t get support from his parents for his startups in Canada. He even had a $100,000 student debt after studying in different universities in North America. Despite the odds, these billionaires built their wealth through grit and hard work.

With the wealth that they have, billionaires need to prepare for any eventualities in the future. They should also have a will to ensure they have control over distributing their wealth after they pass away.

Importance of a Will

Having a will allows you to dictate how to distribute your wealth when you die. It is a legal document that contains your wishes on how your wealth is distributed and who will take care of your minor children. If you pass away without a will, you are considered an intestate, and the distribution of your wealth depends on the relationship. This means you will not control how the wealth is distributed.

Several famous American personalities passed away without a will. These include President Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Kurt Cobain, Prince, and Michael Jackson. While you can make a will on your own, a witness can reduce any challenges to its validity later. But it’s best to have an estate and trust planner prepare the will for you.

A survey showed that over 60 percent of Americans have no will. Around 70 percent of Americans between 45 and 54 years old had no will. On the other hand, Americans between the ages of 55 and 64 did not have a will. In case a person passes away without a will, judges or state officials will act as the executor of the estate.

Distribution of Wealth

When it comes to the distribution of wealth, billionaires have several options. And the will should contain this so they can distribute their wealth properly.

a grieving family


The first and most popular way among many billionaires is to let their family inherit the wealth. Since many billionaires worked their whole life to give their families a comfortable life, it’s only logical for them to let their families inherit the wealth they amassed.

A census of over 2,600 billionaires in 2019 showed that around 56 percent were self-made, so they didn’t inherit their wealth. On the other hand, around 31 percent already had a certain degree of wealth. And around 13 percent inherited their wealth.

Among those who inherited their wealth were the Mars siblings, Forrest, Jacqueline, and Frank. They inherited their wealth from their father. Another prominent individual on the list is Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple. The daughter of the late Sam Walton, Alice Walton, also inherited her wealth.


But not all billionaires are giving their wealth to their families. One of these billionaires is Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. He announced that he would donate 99 percent of his shares to causes promoting personalized learning, connecting people, and curing disease through the Chan Zuckerberg Foundation. Interestingly enough, he announced in the same letter that he welcomed his daughter to the world.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife are also planning to donate most of their wealth to charitable causes through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The foundation aims to eliminate poverty, disease, and hunger around the world. The couple will give their children a small part of their wealth.

Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffet is gradually giving away his wealth to charity. He started giving away his wealth in 2006 and has given away around $37 billion so far. The Oracle of Omaha said that he would give away 99 percent of his wealth to charity. The bulk of the donation will go to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Duty-Free Shoppers co-founder, Charles Feeney, was once a billionaire, but he gave his wealth gradually to charitable institutions. He was once valued at $8 billion, but he now has only $2 million after giving away his wealth to charities, foundations, and universities over the years.

People can acquire wealth through grit and hard work. Even though some billionaires leave their entire wealth to their family after they pass away, others prefer to donate the bulk to charity to help lift the lives of people all over the world.

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