For many wealthy celebrities, success has been the result of hard work and perseverance. Yet contrary to assumption, many of the world’s richest are adamantly against giving their children a silver spoon — for a variety of reasons. Read on to see which famous figures have opted against leaving a vast inheritance for their children, and the reasons behind their decisions.
1. Jackie Chan
Already a star in his home country, Jackie Chan had everyone wanting to try out their martial arts skills when he arrived in Hollywood. The Chinese martial artist-turned-film star became known as one of the “most recognized star in the world” with successful films like Rush Hour, and Shanghai Noon.
Though he comes off as jovial, in his autobiography, Never Grow Up, Chan revealed a darker side to his past and family life. His tumultuous relationship with his son, Jaycee Chan, reached a new low when Chan revealed that he would not leave his film fortune to his son. While it has been reported that the two have mended their relationship, Jackie Chan remains adamant about donating his more than $45 million to charity.
2. Barron Hilton
It turns out that Paris Hilton may not be living The Simple Life after all. That’s because her grandfather, Barron Hilton, decided to donate almost all of his fortune. The hotel magnate chose to follow his father’s generous legacy, giving 97% of his $2.3 billion fortune to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.
This foundation, which benefits humanitarian projects across the world, began with Conrad Hilton, the original founder of the hotel empire. Despite his purportedly tense relationship with his publicity-inclined granddaughter Paris, the socialite took to Instagram to mourn losing him. With a variety of successful business ventures, and her famous last name, fans can rest assured that the reality television star will continue to lead a glamorous life.
3. Simon Cowell
When notoriously acerbic television personality Simon Cowell revealed his plan to not leave a penny to his children, fans were stunned. Thankfully, Mr. Cowell’s reasoning behind the decision should result in fans realizing that behind all the cutting commentary, he’s unbelievably generous.
Cowell became a household name for his trademark sarcastic remarks as one of the judges on American Idol. As the producer behind huge bands like One Direction, and successful shows like America’s Got Talent, he has amassed a fortune worth over $480 million. Despite his large fortune, Cowell believes that his money should be used to give people “an opportunity”, and that he doesn’t “believe in passing on from one generation to another”.
4. Sonny Bono
Sonny Bono’s tragic death sent shock waves throughout the entertainment industry in 1998. Further shock ensued when it became known that the one-time charismatic half of The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, who later became a politician, didn’t have a will. While Bono didn’t leave a particularly large estate, his fortune, less than $2 million, quickly became the subject of a lengthy legal battle involving his ex-wife, the singer Cher.
As the legal investigation continued, more details about Bono’s shrewd business deals became public. In contrast to his laidback television personality, Bono retained a tight grip on the management of Cher’s career, often through confining contracts. Because Bono had never drawn up a will, his estate remained in probate for many months. Issues arose concerning the copyrights of many of Cher’s most popular songs.
5. Elton John
Fans of Elton John would be quick to admit that their favorite singer isn’t shy when it comes to living an extravagant lifestyle. It appears, however, that the singer has changed his view on opulent spending since becoming a father.
The “Rocket Man” singer and his husband David Furnish have two sons that the couple is trying to raise as humbly as possible. While the two boys will receive a portion of their father’s estimated $46 million fortune, most of it will be donated to charity. The singer told the Daily Mirror “it’s terrible to give kids a silver spoon” and pointed to his own humble roots as a reason to make his children work for what they want.
The famous British singer has a “Message in a Bottle” for his children: don’t expect to live off my fortune. The former Police frontman told the Daily Mail that he would like for his six children to develop the same work ethic that propelled him to stardom, and to not depend on his handouts.
Not only did he stress the importance of work, but also revealed that due to his many professional and personal commitments, there probably won’t be much of a fortune for them anyway. But before fans send out an SOS, he reassured the newspaper that his children will be taken care of, but that they should “want to succeed on their own merit”.
7. Mickey Rooney
Known for his comedic demeanor, Mickey Rooney’s final days were marred by tragedy. The film star became an outspoken advocate against elder abuse after it was revealed he was being financially exploited by his stepchildren. Further complicating the matter was the fact that Rooney had nine children, from eight marriages.
At the time of his passing, Rooney’s estate was said to have been worth only $18,000. Insiders revealed that one of the reasons his fortune had dwindled was he wasn’t able to collect royalties from his films. His will was also strangely updated to disinherit his nine children, but to leave the entirety to his other step-son, Mark Aber.
8. Gordon Ramsay
Gordon Ramsay is known to television viewers for his scathing commentary and “tough love” approach. It is no surprise that the celebrity chef and restaurateur would apply that same toughness with his own children. In an interview with the Telegraph, the Hell’s Kitchen host revealed the financial plan he and his wife have cooked up for their children.
The two have revealed that they don’t believe in spoiling their children — even if it means the kids sit in coach while they indulge in first class! He also stated that if his children were to show an interest in the culinary industry, they would have to work their way up. He believes these measures will prevent them from becoming spoiled. Ramsay nonetheless agrees to use some of his estimated $62 million to pay a deposit for their future homes.
9. Sean Connery
Before he was enjoying martinis (shaken, not stirred — of course) and romancing women across the world as James Bond, Sean Connery was a poor boy just outside of the Scottish capital. Connery began working at 13 to support himself, and soon became interested in acting, eventually filling the tailored suit of pop culture’s favorite spy.
Connery, who understands the importance of hard work, has allegedly stated that he would not be bequeathing his fortune to his son, Jason Connery. Jason’s mother, Connery’s ex-wife, endured a difficult relationship with the Scottish actor, which many believe led to rumors of his son being cut off. Jason, however, maintains that it is ultimately his father’s decision, and that Connery has never stated he wouldn’t “receive a penny”, as was reported by his mother.
10. Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson may have been considered the “King of Pop”, but estate planning may have been a bit more difficult for him. Jackson, who rose to fame as part of the Jackson 5, soon became a household name with his trademark dance moves and countless hits. Sadly, when the record-breaking pop artist passed away in 2009, his estate became the center of many legal battles.
In the years leading up to his death, the singer had also become involved in a variety of legal troubles. His extravagant lifestyle led to excessive debt. In a strange turn of events, after his passing, he became the “highest earning dead celebrity” as listed by Forbes. Fueled by an extensive catalog of his songs and Beatles songs, his estate has so far earned close to $2 billion. The majority of his fortune went to his three children, and mother Katherine Jackson.
11. Andrew Lloyd Webber
Andrew Lloyd Webber is known as the creative mastermind behind some of theater’s greatest musicals. His children, however, may be singing a different tune. In an interview with the Daily Mirror, Webber has revealed: “I don’t believe in inherited money at all.” With a net worth of over a billion dollars, the Evita and Cats composer has worked hard to create his theater empire.
The theater mogul went on to say that he believes in his children developing a strong work ethic rather than becoming complacent because of a large inheritance. Instead, he would like to see his fortune go to towards the development of theater, as well as being used to support aspiring musicians and composers.
12. Aaron Spelling
Aaron Spelling quickly made television history as the successful producer behind television shows such as The Love Boat, Dynasty, and Charlie’s Angels. The founder of production company Spelling Television, he produced a record-breaking 218 productions. Little did Spelling know that his death would set the scene for a vicious legal drama.
In 2006, Spelling passed away, leaving an estimated fortune of $600 million. His two children, however, would only receive a reported $800,000 leading to a very public dispute. Upon learning she could not continue to lead her expensive lifestyle, in an interview with People, daughter Tori Spelling said: “When you grow up silver spoon it’s hard to go plastic.”
13. Gene Simmons
Known for his thunderous music and wild rock star persona, fans were surprised by Gene Simmons’ conservative views on finances. The KISS bass player has revealed that he and wife Shannon Tweed do not want their two children depending on his wealth.
Simmons came from a very humble upbringing, raised by a single Holocaust survivor mother who immigrated with him from Israel to New York in search of a better life. As such, he understands the importance of hard work and perseverance. He feels he would like to instill that same work ethic, so that they can “make their own way”. The rock star promises that his children will still be cared for, but that “they will never be rich off my money”.
14. Ted Turner
Considered one of the most famous names in the media industry, Ted Turner is also one of the richest men in the world. Turner got his start in his father’s advertising business, and quickly amassed a fortune across a variety of media platforms. The founder of the news channel CNN, television networks TNT and TBS, Turner is said to be worth more than $2 billion.
Despite what many consider to be a shockingly large fortune, the media proprietor has a very generous side to him. A well-known philanthropist, he has donated a billion dollars to the United Nations, and plans to donate his vast wealth to charity. In 2010, Turner declared that he would join other wealthy figures in Warren Buffett’s The Giving Pledge, a promise to donate the majority of his wealth to charity.
15. Robert Kardashian
Before the Kardashian siblings would become household names, another Kardashian dominated television screens: Robert Kardashian. The Los Angeles lawyer became famous for his involvement in the mid-’90s O.J. Simpson trial. Despite being part of Simpson’s legal “dream team”, the senior Kardashian’s legacy would be fraught with legal complications after his untimely death in 2003.
A successful lawyer and businessman, Kardashian had amassed a sizable fortune. His biological children Kim, Khloé, Kourtney, and Robert Jr. “Rob”, became embroiled in a lengthy legal battle against their stepmother, who they accused of marrying their father just months before his death. As the popularity of the Kardashians surged with the success of their reality show, Keeping Up With The Kardashians, so did media coverage of the legal war. Today, the Kardashians have mostly resolved any familial legal disputes.
16. Bob Marley
Widely considered the most famous reggae artist, as well as one of the best-known performers of the 20th century, Bob Marley amassed fans across the world with his soulful music. Born into poverty in Jamaica, Marley quickly rose to fame with his hit “One Love/People Get Ready”. His songs, blending politics, spirituality, and positivity with gentle island rhythms, took the world by storm.
Sadly, the singer passed away at the shockingly young age of 36. It was later revealed that Marley, who had 11 children, didn’t have a will. It was reported that the singer eschewed estate planning because of his Rastafarian beliefs, even telling his son Ziggy, “Money can’t buy life.” Because he never drew up a will, Marley’s profitable estate has been hotly contested by his many descendants, among others.
17. Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis
Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis are often considered one of Hollywood’s favorite couples. The pair met on the comedy series, That ’70s Show, but wouldn’t begin dating until 2012. The couple married in 2015, and have two children that they hope will follow in their parents’ hard-working footsteps.
Kunis has also become famous for her voice work on the animated comedy, Family Guy. Kutcher, in addition to acting, has become an investor in high-tech start-ups. The pair are reportedly worth close to $400 million, mostly due to Kutcher’s start-up success. Despite their grand fortune, they insist that their children will not receive “a trust” because the couple plans on donating it instead.
18. Mark Zuckerberg
As the creator of one of the biggest social media platforms on earth, Mark Zuckerberg is also one of the richest men on the planet. The pioneering tech titan rose to the top of the list when he created Facebook, a social media platform used by close to 3 billion people across the globe.
Despite his unimaginable wealth, Zuckerberg is known for his low-key and conservative lifestyle. Often seen wearing casual nondescript clothing, the young Internet entrepreneur is worth an estimated $84.4 billion. Like many other billionaires, Zuckerberg has joined in The Giving Pledge, promising to donate the majority of his Facebook fortune to charity. With billions in the bank, and an ever-increasing presence in the tech world, it is safe to say that his two children will be fine despite their father’s pledge.
19. Tony Curtis
Original matinée idol, leading man Tony Curtis had some secrets behind his silver screen persona. The Some Like It Hot actor, father to Hollywood actress Jamie Lee Curtis, had a notoriously rocky relationship with his children. It all ended in an equally rocky final decision regarding his estimated $60 million estate.
According to Forbes magazine, Curtis made a dramatic decision to explicitly disinherit his five children as stated by his will. To add insult to injury, his personal belongings were auctioned off. Their sale was orchestrated by the late actor’s fifth wife, Jill Vandenberg Curtis. Naturally, the Curtis siblings felt “blindsided” by the decision, and have pursued legal action. Jamie Lee Curtis, who found success with the horror classic Halloween, has largely stayed out of the legal battle.
20. George Lucas
The creator of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, George Lucas has become one of the most famous filmmakers in cinematic history. His sci-fi action film Star Wars helped spawn an extremely profitable empire with films, books, and merchandise. Lucas soon parlayed his success in a series of other film projects, before selling his company Lucasfilm to The Walt Disney Company for over $4 billion.
A father of four, Lucas believes that his money should go towards helping others and not just to his children. Lucas and wife, businesswoman Mellody Hobson, have pledged half of their fortune to The Giving Pledge. In addition to joining the pledge, Lucas has set up his own nonprofit foundations that support education through technological innovation. The couple has also founded an art museum called The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art.
21. Joan Crawford
The siren of the silver screen, Joan Crawford gained notoriety with her exceptionally volatile relationship with her children as illustrated in the 1978 book Mommie Dearest. The shocking memoir alleged that Crawford physically, and emotionally, abused her four adopted children. The book, written by Crawford’s daughter Christina, was later turned into the cult classic movie of the same name.
When she passed away in 1977, the actress bequeathed her estate to two of her other adopted children, Cindy and Cathy. Mommie Dearest author Christina and her brother Christopher were cut out of the will “for reasons which are well known to them”, as Crawford cryptically included in her will.
22. Bill Gates
No discussion on wealth would be complete without the mention of tech billionaire Bill Gates. One of the original tech tycoons, Gates made his fortune as co-founder of the innovative Microsoft Corporation. With the success of Microsoft, Gates continued to pursue other lucrative business ventures, creating a high-tech empire. Constantly seeking new business opportunities, Gates’ fortune is estimated to be worth $108 billion.
Despite having three children, Gates and wife Melinda, have pledged to donate the majority of their wealth. In 2010, Gates and fellow billionaire Warren Buffett, founded The Giving Pledge, a promise to donate at least half of their fortune to charity. In addition to joining Buffett’s charitable endeavor, Gates has also founded his own charity, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The high-tech mogul continues to use his ingenuity, and wealth, to better the planet through a variety of charitable projects.
23. Marlon Brando
Starring as Stanley Kowalski in the film adaptation of A Streetcar Named Desire, Marlon Brando became Hollywood royalty. His brooding demeanor and raw talent captivated film critics and fans alike. For Brando, his wild side wouldn’t just become part of his acting career. It would translate into a complex personal life with three wives, and an even more complicated will reading.
Brando passed away in 2004, leaving a fortune of over $21 million and a variety of properties from California to Tahiti. To make matters more complicated, he had over eleven children (some he was unaware of). Brando had mysteriously updated his 2002 will, which had named close confidants as his beneficiaries. It was changed to a 2004 version, which included relative strangers or work acquaintances. While many found the circumstances around his will strange, given the reclusive actor’s history, they were not surprised.
24. Warren Buffett
Like Bill Gates, Ted Turner, and other billionaires, Warren Buffett’s name has become synonymous with extreme wealth. The famous investor and philanthropist is worth close to $90 billion, but has been a vocal supporter of using his wealth to help others.
The CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, one of the most profitable conglomerates in the world, reinforced his commitment to help by creating The Giving Pledge. Calling on other billionaires, Buffett hopes to put his enormous fortune to good use in order to improve the world. Inspired by their father’s philanthropic spirit, his three children have founded their own charity projects.
25. Pablo Picasso
One of the most influential artists of all time, Pablo Picasso’s personal life was largely a mystery. A prolific creator, he produced an estimated 45,000 works of art. These creations, along with their licensing and rights, have contributed to an estate presumed to be worth billions. Despite his success, Picasso did not leave a will. When he passed away in 1973, his extensive array of art became the focus of a lengthy legal battle.
Involved were his legitimate and illegitimate children, ex-wives, mistresses, art dealers, and the French court system. After much negotiation, son Claude Picasso became the legal administrator of the estate, and his siblings became its legal heirs. Art industry leaders have noted a considerable resurgence in Picasso’s work, and believe that his popularity will only increase the wealth of the “art world’s richest dynasty”.
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