By Mandi Woodruff
American parents are some of the most generous givers in the world, planning to leave an average of $175,000 to their children after they retire, according to a new study by HSBC. One out of every five inheritances will be worth more than $390,000.
Coming into that kind of money without having to work for it is nothing to sniff at — but what if you were born into billions?
America is home to the most billionaires in the world — 442 at last count. We decided to take a look at some of the richest American families and turn the spotlight from the billionaires themselves to the heirs and heiresses who are expected to live up to their family fortune.
Zachary and Alexa Dell
Their father, Michael Dell, made his fortune founding the largest PC company in the U.S., Dell. Worth $15.9 billion, he’s the 25th richest person in the country. Alexa Dell, 18, made headlines when she posted a slew of Instagram photos and tweets that revealed her family’s secret vacation spot to the public last year — undoing countless hours of work by their $2.7 million-a-year personal security team to keep their whereabouts private (they were on the family jet on their way to Fiji). Younger brother Zachary is already getting in the entrepreneurial spirit. At age 15, he co-owns a children’s sports camp in Dallas.
Susan (not pictured), Howard (left), and Peter Buffett. The Buffets' famous father hardly needs an introduction, but we'll humor you: Warren Buffett, 83, is CEO and chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and the second-richest man in the U.S., worth $59 billion.Despite the fact that Warren plans to donate the bulk of his wealth to charitable causes, we're willing to bet that didn’t bother his heirs in the slightest. Susan, 60, Howard, 59, and Peter, 55, are each dedicated to philanthropic endeavors in their own right. Howard, a longtime farmer, has written a dozen books on wildlife preservation and founded the Howard G. Buffett Foundation to raise awareness of global biodiversity issues. Susan’s works on supporting philanthropic endeavors that target family and children’s education issues, mostly through the Sherwood Foundation. The youngest, Peter, is a musician and co-chairman of the NoVo Foundation, which promotes global equality
Jennifer Gates (pictured) is the eldest of former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates' three children, who also include Rory, 10, and Phoebe, 7. At 58, their dad is the richest man in the U.S. with an estimated $72 billion fortune, according to the latest Forbes ranking. Like another famous heiress on our list, Georgina Bloomberg, Jennifer is also a competitive equestrian. Her dad reportedly rented out a $12.9 million mansion so the family could watch her compete in the 2012 Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Fla., according to Forbes. But even though Papa Gates is happy to bankroll his daughter's pricey hobby, Jennifer and her siblings won't inherit the whole of Gates' treasure trove. Three years ago, he co-founded the Giving Pledge, an initiative that asks billionaires to donate at least half of their wealth to charity, with friend and renown investor Warren Buffett. Gates has been vocal about protecting his kids from the nefarious effects of too much wealth, saying “I don't think that amount of money would be good for them,” in a 2010 interview with the Daily Mail. Their loss is the world’s gain.
Brett’s father, Carl Icahn, 77, is the activist investor and founder of Icahn Enterprises and the 18th richest person in the U.S. Brett, 40, may stand to inherit his father’s fortune, but the hedge fund manager is doing a decent job filling Dad’s shoes already. Carl Icahn threw Brett and his investment management partner, David Schechter, a multibillion-dollar bone in 2012, giving the pair free reign over $3 billion worth of capital from Icahn Enterprises. The move was something of a test, letting the junior Icahn prove his savvy as a hedge fund manager with the hopes of one day launching his own fund. Brett, who joined the family business as an investment analyst more than a decade ago, has produced returns as high as 96% in his new role.
The Soros Siblings
Alexander (right), Andrea, Jonathan Soros (left), Gregory and Robert (not pictured).It's good to be a Soros. Their father, George Soros, is a hedge fund manager and philanthropist worth $20 billion. George Soros’ brood is well on their way to making the most of their father’s massive fortune. The youngest, Gregory, is a self-described artist who listed his Manhattan townhouse for $12 million in April (he purchased it three years ago for $11.9 million). His older brother, Alex, is a philanthropist, sitting on the board of the Open Society Foundation, Jewish Funds for Justice and Global Witness. Older sister Andrea runs her own nonprofit, Trace, which benefits Tibetan education. Andrea made headlines last year when she put her Manhattan townhouse on the market for a cool $30 million. The eldest Soros siblings, Robert and Jonathan, both took to the family business. Robert oversees investments at Soros Fund Management and was later joined by Jonathan, who stepped down in 2012. Jonathan is now a senior fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, a liberal think tank.
The Google Tots
Google co-founders Larry Page (right) and Sergey Brin, both 40, have matching $25 billion fortunes, making them the 12th- and 13th-richest people in the U.S., respectively. Both are parents to some of the richest toddlers in the world. Page has two children with wife Lucy, born in 2009 and 2011. Brin’s four-year-old son, Benji, was born in 2009 and someone has already purchased the rights to his web domain, Benjibrin.com.
Travis’s father, Phil Knight, 75, co-founded Nike and is currently the 24th-richest person in America worth an estimated $16.3 billion. A longtime animator and film executive, Travis, 40, may have distanced himself from his father’s line of work, but it’s clear the family’s flair for entrepreneurship rubbed off. Knight launched LAIKA, Inc., a stop-motion animation film studio, in 2005. His younger brother, Matthew, passed away after suffering a heart attack while scuba diving in El Salvador in 2004. There’s little, if any, public information about their sister, Christina, which may be a sign that Phil’s personal wariness of the media was passed on to his daughter.
The Mars Bars Kids
Jacqueline (pictured; 74), Forrest (82), and John Mars (77)The heirs to candy mogul Forrest Mars together rank as the 15th-richest people in the U.S., inheriting an estimated $20.5 billion from the family business. Mars, the world’s largest candy-maker, includes brands like M&Ms, Twix and Uncle Ben’s under its umbrella. The Mars siblings' grandfather, Frank, started the company in 1911 and the trio inherited their stakes after their father passed away in 1999. According to Forbes, Jacqueline is a trustee of the U.S. Equestrian Team; Forrest supports historical preservation initiatives; and John backs the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington in Mount Vernon, N.Y. Between the three of them, they have 13 children.
The Koch Brothers
It’s hard to look at the Koch brothers as simply heirs to their late father’s multibillion-dollar fortune. Charles (left), 78, and David, 74, are worth an estimated $36 billion, making them the richest brothers in the U.S., but they’ve had a hand in the family business for decades. Today, each shares executive roles at Koch Industries, a global conglomerate and the second-largest privately-held company in the U.S., whose subsidiaries are involved in a range of industries, including refining, energy, and building products.
Megan and David Ellison
The son and daughter of Oracle co-founder and yachting enthusiast Larry Ellison each stand to inherit a piece of Pop’s $41 billion fortune, but they’re not relying on that windfall to sustain them. Since their early 20s, both Megan, 27, and David, 30, have made a name for themselves as film producers in Hollywood. They went on to launch his and her production companies, Skydance Films and Annapurna Productions, which have helped bring blockbusters like “Zero Dark Thirty” and “World War Z” to the big screen. The Wrap called the pair the films industry’s newest “power siblings” in 2010.