One of the United Kingdom’s biggest lottery winners in history managed to spend over £40 million of his £161-million jackpot in just eight years. At first glance, the £100,000 a week average sounds jarring and like the beginning of a story about someone squandering their money away. However, that’s the opposite of what happened to Colin Weir, who left behind quite the philanthropic legacy with his spending.
A recent Daily Mail article provides a rare window into the spending and will of a lottery winner. Though somewhat unconventional in his way about it, Weir left behind a philanthropic trail after his December 2019 death at the age of 71.
As the saying often goes, money can’t buy happiness, and Weir and his wife divorced some years after their big win. According to reports, it appears that Weir and his wife equally split their winnings on divorce. Like many who come suddenly into a fortune, Weir did some big spending: He bought fancy cars, real estate property and even a stake in his favorite soccer team. Weir also threw himself a £1 million lobster and champagne party for family and friends to be “remembered by” prior to his death.
However, Weir didn’t just revel in his fortune alone: Weir and his former wife spent £5 million buying houses for close friends and family. Instead of selling their old £220,000 house, they gave it to a young mother who lived next door with her parents.
The generosity didn’t end there; they set up a trust to fund matters they support including health, animal welfare and public participation in sport. Other examples of their good deeds included a £50,000 sponsorship for an individual to complete a four-year art course in Florence and a five-figure sum for a new prosthetic limb for a 13-year-old. A month before he died, Weir’s company acquired a 55% share in his favorite football club so he could donate it to the fans and put the club’s future in the hands of the local community.
What’s particularly respectable about this story is the personal aspect of some of their charitable contributions, in addition to the traditional ways of distributing wealth.
Per the Daily Mail, Weir did also have some traditional estate planning in place. He made wise investments, including assets in the tax haven of the Isle of Man of around £3.5 million and a varied share portfolio of more than £12.3 million, featuring stakes in global brands such as Microsoft, Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Estée Lauder. The remainder of Weir’s estate has been managed by a discretionary trust since his death, which will provide funds for his children, their partners and any descendants, as well as trusts and charities close to his heart.
An Estate Planner’s Perspective
I asked Michael Karlin, a partner at Karlin & Peebles, LLP in Los Angeles, to share his thoughts on this interesting approach to giving.
Winners of large lottery prizes should hire reputable professional advisors as the typical winner of these prizes likely won’t have a great deal of financial sophistication and will need protection from the array of greedy and not necessarily honest people who will seek to take advantage, said Karlin.
Regarding the lavish spending, Karlin opines that “in exchange for £40 million, he ended up owning cars, property and a football club. Assuming he didn’t overpay, he just exchanged cash for property and was no worse off at the moment of the exchange.”
“What did constitute spending was giving away the shares of the club to the supporters’ trust or making outright gifts to family and friends. That’s a choice he was free to make, although I hope he took some tax advice, especially concerning the U.K. income and capital gains tax consequences of his investments and the U.K. inheritance tax (equivalent to the U.S. gift and estate taxes) consequences of his gifts and bequests,” Karlin concluded.
From the sound of it, Weir fared pretty well for someone who came into such a sudden large sum of money.