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June 05, 2015

How Much Have the Estates of Giving Pledge Signers Actually Given?

As a 10 more billionaire families join the Giving Pledge to devote at least half their fortunes to philanthropy, Bloomberg examines how much has gone to charity from the estates of signers who have died.

Fulfillment of the pledge, which is not legally binding, varies widely among the 10 deceased billionaires among the 193 signatories, with some having given far less than half of their estimated wealth, according to public disclosures of their lifetime and estate giving. Complex estate structures and tax issues can delay bequests and also make it difficult to discern how much of a signer's fortune is subject to the 50-percent promise.

Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, who initiated the pledge five years ago, do not seek any confirmation of giving. "It’s really thinking about how iconic figures providing inspiration and support can inspire and serve as a model for society," said Robert Rosen, the director of philanthropic partnerships for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "We aren’t looking to add any additional complexity."