Estate Planning Lessons We Can Learn from These Famous Moms

On Behalf of | May 9, 2024 | Firm News |

Gloria Vanderbilt: No Trust Fund Kids for Her

We are at the precipice of what is being called “The Greatest Wealth Transfer in History,” as
baby boomers are set to pass down $84 trillion to younger generations.1 Every parent wants to
see their children succeed. But some may wonder whether an inheritance will help promote or
hinder the future success of their children. Famous mom Gloria Vanderbilt was staunchly
against trust funds for her kids. And at least one of them applauds her decision.

Vanderbilt Heiress Makes Good on “No Trust Fund” Promise

Before she passed away in 2019, Gloria Vanderbilt, heiress to the Vanderbilt fortune (or at least
what remained of it) that was created by her great-great-grandfather, railroad and shipping
tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt, made it clear to her three children that they should not expect a
trust fund from her.

Gloria was herself the beneficiary of a trust fund worth an estimated $2.5–$5 million in 1925, or
around $35–$70 million today, and had a reported net worth of around $200 million when she
passed away.

But unlike her father, Reginald Vanderbilt, who squandered most of the family fortune, Gloria
made more money than she inherited during her career as a fashion designer, actress, model,
and artist, building a denim business that was worth an estimated $100 million.

In a 1985 interview with the New York Times, Gloria said, “I’m not knocking inherited money, but
the money I’ve made has a reality to me that inherited money doesn’t have.”2

Decades later her son, CNN news anchor Anderson Cooper, echoed his mother’s stance on
inherited wealth when he called it a “curse” and an “initiative sucker” and questioned whether he
would have been so motivated if he felt like there was a “pot of gold waiting for [him].”3

“We believe in working,” he told radio host Howard Stern when Stern argued that leaving your
children an inheritance is a loving gesture.4

1 Jennifer Wines, How Might the Great Wealth Transfer Change Society?, Kiplinger (Dec. 5, 2023),
2 Antoinette Bueno, Why Gloria Vanderbilt Did Not Leave an Inheritance for Son Anderson Cooper, ET
(June 18, 2019),
3 Michelle Singeltary, Gloria Vanderbilt Reportedly Did Not Leave Her Heirs Much Money. Maybe You
Should Follow Her Lead., Wash. Post (June 24, 2019),
4 Id.