America's Billionaires are Giving it Away

 2010 is the year of no estate tax.  It only goes to follow that the wealthiest of all Americans are rejoicing that they need not share their wealth with others, and can go back to counting their coins without worry about the government asking for their share, right?  Wrong.  It turns out that "34 Billionaires Are Giving Half of Their Fortunes Away" according to Time Newsfeed.

A a few week ago Bill Gates and Warren Buffet announced that they were going to solicit the very exclusive club they belong to, America's Billionaires, to donate at least 50% of their fortunes to charitable causes during their lives or after their deaths through The Giving Pledge.  The Giving Pledge is described as an effort to "invite the wealthiest individuals and families in America to commit to giving the majority of thier wealth to philanthropy."  You can even view pledges to see who has made the pledge so far.  Some names you will recognize

  • Michael Bloomberg
  • Warren Buffet (who is leaving 99% of his wealth to charities)
  • Dian Von Fursetnberg
  • Bill and Melinda Gate
  • Barron Hilton
  • George Lucas
  • Ted Turner

You can even see what has motivated these people who have been blessed with success to give back.. George Lucas' passion is educational innovations.  Michael Bloomberg believes that "by giving, we inspire others to give of themselves, their money or their time."

Within the estate tax code has always been the concept that you can give it in taxes, or give it to charity.  Charitable gifts are not subject to tax.  The acts of these individuals inspires me to think "Why don't more people take charge of where their money is going on death and instead of leave it grumbling to the government, leave it to cause you believe in?."   Think of all the change if The Giving Pledge was not limited to only America's billionaires?  The Giving Pledge has inspired me to have more through discussions with my clients about trading tax dollars for philanthropy.