Many are well aware that Warren Buffett, one of the richest people in the world, has pledged to give away 85% of his stock in his company, Berkshire Hathaway, to charity. In a 2006 pledge letter, he designated a majority of that money to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Four years later, he followed up with a pledge to give away 99% of his entire fortune. While that pledge remains, there’s newfound speculation as to which charity will get the windfall.
Though it’s been widely reported that the Gates foundation has been preparing for the anticipated influx of funding for years, recent events may potentially shake up those plans. The Wall Street Journal reports that similar preparations are now underway at the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation (named after Buffett’s late wife), a Buffett-family foundation that supports abortion rights. Given the Supreme Court’s recent overturning of Roe v. Wade, a shift in funding to a charity that focuses on abortion rights and reproductive health seems fitting.
Buffett hasn’t publicly addressed how his estate is to be divided, and his 2006 pledge letter also left ambiguity as to plans for his wealth after death. He is worth an estimated $96 billion, and it’s also unclear how Buffett’s remaining uncommitted funds (an estimated $18.7 billion, according to reports, which number can balloon in size if Buffett’s shares continue to perform the way they have) will be distributed, but it’s been reported that he wants his entire fortune spent within 10 years of his death. The amount left to the Buffett family foundation could be as high as $70 to $100 billion, according to documents reviewed by the WSJ, which would make it one of the largest private philanthropies in the world.
It's important to remember that Buffett’s charitable pledge to the Gates Foundation may not necessarily even be enforceable; the enforceability of a pledge is a matter of state law—for a pledge to be enforceable, it must have consideration in exchange for the promise or detrimental reliance. Regardless of which foundation gets the windfall after all of Buffett’s estate planning is said and done, it’s almost certain the money will go toward good causes—such as reproductive health and primary health, which could include expanding into vaccinations and infectious-disease treatments. Another headline-worthy solution that’s apparently been floated around by Gates Foundation staffers (since some existing Gates Foundation grant recipients were already maxed out) is to create a world children’s savings bank, where each child would receive thousands of dollars. While it’s unclear how feasible that idea is, it’s certainly an innovative take on tackling wealth inequality.