It is often assumed that most people in New Jersey and across the country want to leave the overwhelming majority of their estates to family members, especially direct descendants. Most testators generally draw up their wills to reflect this broad estate plan description, and the laws of intestacy--which dispose of the property of a person who dies without a will--also follow this assumption.
But estate plans are unique, closely tailored to reflect a person's individual property holdings and what that person wants to do with those assets. Some buck the trend of leaving a large portion of their estate to children and other family members, however, preferring that their offspring earn their way through life. In fact, a number of the world's brightest lights in business have created estate plans that leave their children ample funds, but hardly a great percentage of their wealth.
U.S. Steel magnate Andrew Carnegie may have been one of the earlier proponents of such an estate plan. He donated most of his money to various organizations and left his daughter under one-tenth of his assets. In modern times, American entrepreneur Bill Gates, whose net worth is estimated at $54 billion, will leave $10 million to each of his children, according to some accounts. About half of his fortune, however, will go to charity.
Many moguls and tycoons said that their motivation behind such estate plans was to provide enough for their children so that they have a good start in life but not so much that they have their initiative dulled by excessive comfort and luxury. Disgruntled children who receive less than they expect may initiate legal proceedings to challenge a decedent's estate plan. Every estate plan should comply with all legal formalities, but this is even more important where a person expects a will contest.
Source: Slate, "10 Rich Dads Who Don't Think Their Kids Deserve Their Money," Heather Murphy, June 16, 2012.