Advisor Insight

Gates, Sting, other celebrities plan on stiffing their kids

Super rich preach self-reliance

Dominik Pabis | Getty Images

They're rock stars, business tycoons and billionaire investors. They're media moguls, politicians and Oscar-winning directors.

And while their fortunes were derived in vastly different ways, they share the common belief that unearned wealth gained via trust funds can sap young minds of the desire to pursue their own passions.

"The thinking behind that is very sound," said Susan Bradley, founder of the Sudden Money Institute. "The super rich are not rich in isolation.

"They know other super-rich families, and there's a sharing of best practices and good ideas," she added. "They inspire each other, but they also know some of the legacies and history."

Indeed, many who have inherited millions felt burdened. And far too many were crushed under the weight of their wealth. The following fraternity of famous parents—including KISS bassist Gene Simmons, "Star Wars" creator George Lucas, rock-and-roll hall-of-famer Sting and business billionaire Michael Bloomberg—aren't about to let that happen. In fact, they're cutting their kids (mostly) out of their will.

By Shelly Schwartz, special to
Posted 27 June 2015

Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

The Oracle of Omaha, worth some $70 billion, famously quipped: "I want to give my kids just enough so that they would feel that they could do anything, but not so much that they would feel like doing nothing." The chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway and active philanthropist has publicly pledged to donate 99 percent of his wealth to worthy causes during his lifetime or at death, most to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

George Lucas

George Lucas
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The world's richest film director, the creator of the "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones" franchises, is leaving most of his wealth—and all of the $4 billion he made when Disney bought the rights to "Star Wars" in 2012—to charity. Lucas, a father of four, is among a handful of billionaires, including Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, who signed The Giving Pledge, a commitment by the world's richest people to donate their money to philanthropic causes.

"My pledge is to the process; as long as I have the resources at my disposal, I will see to raise the bar for future generations of students of all ages," Lucas wrote in his pledge letter. "I am dedicating the majority of my wealth to improving education."


Sting at the 25th Anniversary Rainforest Fund Benefit Concert at Carnegie Hall on April 17, 2014, in New York City
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The English singing sensation and former front man for The Police grew up poor, and he wants his six kids (three daughters and three sons) to earn their own money. He told British tabloid the "Daily Mail," "[I] certainly don't want to leave them trust funds that are albatrosses around their necks.

"They have to work," he said. "All my kids know that, and they rarely ask me for anything, which I really respect and appreciate."

The singer/musician, who has amassed a fortune reportedly valued at more than $300 million, won't be leaving much to his children.

Simon Cowell

Simon Cowell
Image source: Getty Images

The 53-year-old music mogul and TV talent judge of "Britain's Got Talent" and "American Idol" fame told the "Mirror" in 2013 he was leaving the sum total of his estate, then valued at roughly $350 million, to charities focused on kids and dogs—not his soon-to-be-born son.

"I don't believe in passing on from one generation to another," he said. "Your legacy has to be that hopefully you gave enough people an opportunity so that they could do well, and you gave them your time, taught them what you know."

Correction: An earlier version misstated the sum total of Simon Cowell's estate. It was $350 million in 2013.

Bill and Melinda Gates

Bill and Melinda Gates at Stanford's graduation ceremony, June 15, 2014
Justin Sullivan / Staff | Getty Images News

The Microsoft founder and his wife, worth some $79 billion, aren't exactly leaving their children out in the cold. They'll give each of their three kids $10 million, according to reports. But the rest of their fortune will go to support their charity, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which seeks to combat poor health and poverty around the globe.

According to "Wired" magazine, the world's richest parents declared at a TED conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, last year that their biggest gift to their children was a good education and that they encourage them to rely on their own abilities. Gates also told TED conference organizer Chris Anderson he would not leave his children billion-dollar trust funds.

"They need to have a sense that their own work is meaningful and important," he said.

Michael Bloomberg

Michael Bloomberg
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

The former New York City mayor, billionaire businessman and media magnate is giving it all away. Worth some $35 billion, he has already donated many millions to his alma mater, Johns Hopkins University, and contributed more to the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He'll leave his two daughters, Georgina and Emma, very little, but not entirely penniless.

"If you want to fully enjoy life—give," he wrote in his commitment letter to The Giving Pledge. "And 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. Long term, they will benefit more from your philanthropy than from your will."

Andrew Lloyd Webber

Andrew Lloyd Webber
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The British composer and owner of The Really Useful Group theater company told the "Daily Mail" in 2008 that he wants his five children to make their own way. Thus, he does not plan to leave them his $840 million estate. "They aren't bothered," he reportedly said. "They don't think that way.

"It is about having a work ethic," he added. "I don't believe in inherited money at all. So I will give them a start in life, but they ain't going to end up owning The Really Useful Group."

Gene Simmons

Jean-Sebastien Evrard | AFP | Getty Images

Nick and Sophie Simmons won't be getting Daddy's millions. The tongue-wagging bassist for hard-rock group KISS has publicly stated that his kids will be taken care of but would never be rich off his money. According to reports, he believes everyone, including his progeny, "should be forced to get up out of bed and go out and work and make their own way."

Pierre Omidyar

Pierre Omidyar, chairman and founder of eBay Inc.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The French-born eBay founder, worth some $8 billion, is generous indeed—just not to his three kids. He's given millions to nonprofits through his Omidyar Foundation and to his philanthropic investment firm, Omidyar Network, which invests in both for-profit companies and nonprofits to facilitate social good. Omidyar and his wife, Pam, have also signed The Giving Pledge to donate the bulk of their wealth to charity.

"In 2001, I publicly stated that we intend to give away the vast majority of our wealth during our lifetime," they wrote in their commitment letter. "Our view is fairly simple.

"We have more money than our family will ever need," they added. "There's no need to hold on to it when it can be put to use today to help solve some of the world's most intractable problems."

Jackie Chan

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OK, so he reneged. The Hong Kong-born movie star, known for his talent in martial arts and acrobatics, reportedly told Channel NewsAsia in 2011 that he would donate half his estate, valued at more than $130 million, to charity when he dies—adding later that his only son, Jaycee, won't see a penny of his wealth. "If he is capable, he can make his own money. If he is not, then he will just be wasting my money," the elder Chan reportedly said.

His position changed, however, in 2015 after Jaycee was released from a six-month prison sentence for marijuana possession and declared he had learned his lesson. "Everything will be given to him," Jackie Chan reportedly told "He is my son, and I am his father. This will not change."