Jerry Lewis and 10 Other Celebrities Who Left (Or Plan to Leave) Their Kids Nothing
Jerry Lewis isn't the only mega celebrity whose last will and testament left his or her kids in the lurch
Jerry Lewis’s six children from his first marriage are getting zilch when it comes to an inheritance, but the comedian isn’t the only mega celebrity whose last will and testament left his or her kids in the lurch.
The future of Lewis’s estate was revealed on Thursday, when PEOPLE obtained his will from The Blast. According to the documents, Lewis “intentionally excluded” all six of his children with his first wife Patti Palmer — meaning they will inherit nothing.
Lewis’s potentially vast estate will be passed to his widow, SanDee Pitnick. Second in line to inherit his fortune, should something happen to his wife, is his 25-year-old adopted daughter Danielle.
As for the rest of Lewis’s kids, they now join the ranks of other famous offspring left hanging by their parents:
1. Mickey Rooney
Rooney’s strained relationship with his wife and children long predated his death, but when the legendary actor died in 2014 at the age of 93, there was immediate infighting within the family.
Just over a month after his death, Rooney’s children filed suit in Los Angeles asking that his will be invalidated, claiming the legendary actor faced “undue influence” when he signed it weeks before his death.
Seven of his eight surviving biological children were not named as beneficiaries to his estate, which was valued at just $18,000, a paltry sum for one of Hollywood’s most iconic stars. While the estate would be potentially worth more in the future, considering licensing rights and memorabilia (including an Oscar), Rooney’s fortune had been diminished from years of gross mismanagement.
Instead, the beneficiary was Mark Aber, Rooney’s stepson and caretaker in his final days. His other seven children would allege that Aber and the estate’s executor, L.A. attorney Michael Augustine, who was Rooney’s court-appointed conservator in the last years of the actor’s life, took “advantage” of him.
In a separate suit, Rooney’s estranged wife, Jan Rooney, also contested probate of the actor’s will, claiming it “blatantly misquotes the terms of the settlement agreements [previously] reached between Janice Rooney and Mickey Rooney.”
The feuding was so intense that Rooney’s body had to be refrigerated for two weeks after his death his family fought in court over burial arrangements, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
By 2015, the last of Rooney’s biological children had dropped her objections, and his final will and testament stood as written.
2. Tony Curtis
A year after the famed actor’s death, The Tony Curtis Estate held an auction to sell off memorabilia and other items owned by the actor. The estate raised more than $1 million during the online auction, all of which went to his widow and fifth wife, Jill Vandenberg Curtis, with a portion going to the couple’s charity, according to Forbes.
But according to the outlet, Curtis’s five children, including actress Jamie Lee Curtis, received nothing from the sale. Forbes reported that the actor had rewritten his Will and Trust just a few months before his death, and in doing so, cut out all of his children. Like Lewis, Curtis reportedly listed all children by name, stating that he wished to intentionally disinherit them. No reason was given in his will.
His daughter Allegra would later tell Inside Edition that she and her siblings were “all blindsided” by his estate, adding that being cut out of their father’s was extremely upsetting. She also said that her father was under improper influence when he changed his inheritance plans.
3. Jackie Chan
Jackie Chan is still alive and well, but he has publicly stated his intention to disinherit his only son, Jaycee, after his death.
According to LA Times, Chan told Channel NewsAsia in 2011 that half of his then-$130-million fortune would go to charity — and the other half would not be going to Jaycee.
“If he is capable, he can make his own money. If he is not, then he will just be wasting my money,” the actor was quoted saying on an award-show red carpet.
Chan’s son, now 34, has had a string of legal issues relating to drug possession. In 2014, Jaycee was arrested in China for marijuana possession, prompting Chan, who was named an anti-drug ambassador for China in 2009, to publicly apologize for his son’s behavior.
But after serving six months in jail following his arrest, it was reported that the father and son reconciled in Taiwan. “I hadn’t seen him for too long. I feel he’s matured this time,” Chan reportedly said. “We didn’t talk about unhappy things. It was all family chat. We talked into the night and didn’t sleep.”
Like Chan, Sting sealed his children’s fate when it comes to their inheritance before his death.
The musician, 65, reportedly told England’s Mail on Sunday newspaper in 2014 that he wasn’t planning on leaving any trust funds for his offspring. “I told them there won’t be much money left because we are spending it,” he reportedly said.
After explaining that much of his money is already committed, the former Police frontman also said he wouldn’t want an inheritance to be “albatrosses round their necks.”
“Obviously, if they were in trouble I would help them,” he added. “But I’ve never really had to do that. They have the work ethic that makes them want to succeed on their own merit.”
5. George Lucas
After selling the Star Wars franchise to Disney for $4.5 billion in 2012, George Lucas — father of four — said that the proceeds from the sale would be donated towards improving education.
Those comments echoed his commitment to give up the majority of his wealth in his 2012 Giving Pledge letter: “As long as I have the resources at my disposal, I will seek to raise the bar for future generations of students of all ages.”
6. Simon Cowell
In 2013, the former X Factor judge and music mogul, who has a now 3-year-old son, told the press that he doesn’t believe in passing on wealth from one generation to another, according to Time. Instead, he said he plans to leave his estimated $500 million fortune to charity, specifically something benefiting “kids and dogs.”
7. Ted Turner
Turner, estimated to be worth $2.2 billion, set up the Turner Foundation, which gives grants on environmental causes, as a family foundation so that his children could also be involved in charitable work, according to Time.
He then launched the United Nations Foundation with an initial pledge of $1 billion back in 1997. The media mogul wrote, “At the time of my death, virtually all my wealth will have gone to charity.”
8. Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary
The Canadian businessman and investor, known for being a judge on the ABC series Shark Tank, said in an interview that he isn’t planning on passing any wealth on to his kids.
“If you don’t start out your life with the fear of not being able to feed yourself and your family, then what motivates you to go get a job?” he said, according to Time.
“Fear motivated me, and it will motivate them.” He added that once they’re educated, he’ll kick his kids out of the nest, though he says he will set up generation-skipping trusts for his grandkids and great grandkids.
9. Warren Buffett
The Berkshire Hathaway mega billionaire has been vocal about his distaste for leaving an inheritance to his family members, including his three children.
“I’m not an enthusiast for dynastic wealth, particularly when 6 billion others have much poorer hands than we do in life,” he reportedly said at a 2006 event following his announcement to donate the vast majority of his fortune.
Since then, Buffett has pledged to give away a full 99% of his estimated $78 billion fortune to charity, and has encouraged other billionaires to give away at least 50% of their wealth through The Giving Pledge.
10. Bill Gates
Speaking with fans on a Reddit “Ask Me Anything,” the Microsoft founder said that he thinks leaving his vast fortune, estimated at over $80 billion, to his three children would be a mistake.
Inspired by Buffett, he plans to leave the vast majority of his fortune to charity, including his own, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.