Bill and Melinda Gates split after 27 years: foundation will be left unscathed

FOX News legal analyst Mercedes Colwin discusses how the power couple’s split will affect their philanthropy

Bill and Melinda Gates recently announced that they intended to divorce, a complex process involving a massive $130 billion fortune and three children to take into consideration.

However, it is unlikely that the Gates’ three children will see any impact on their inheritance cash – because Bill Gates has said on multiple occasions that he does not intend to leave them the bulk of the fortune.

During a 2014 TED Talk, the host noted that the pair easily had enough money to make all of their children billionaires, but Bill Gates said that was not their plan.

"They won't have anything like that. They need to have a sense that their own work is meaningful and important," Bill Gates said.

During an interview with The Daily Mail in 2011, Gates was asked about reports that he planned to each child $10 million – and while he did not confirm the exact number, he did say that it would be a "miniscule portion" of his wealth. 

Bill and Melinda Gates recently announced that they intended to divorce, a complex process involving a massive $130 billion fortune and three children to take into consideration. (Leigh Vogel/WireImage)

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He made similar comments on Reddit.

"I definitely think leaving kids massive amounts of money is not a favor to them," Gates said in response to a Reddit user's comment on the $10 million figure. "Warren Buffett was part of an article in Fortune talking about this in 1986 before I met him and it made me think about it and decide he was right. Some people disagree with this but Melinda and I feel good about it."

Vicky Poumpouridis, a family and matrimonial attorney at Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP, told FOX Business that because the Gates' had planned to donate most of their wealth and not pass it down to their children, it is unlikely that those plans will be affected by the divorce.

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The caveat, however, is that unless the terms of what will be given to the children is strictly laid out in their separation agreement or another agreement, either Bill or Melinda Gates could change their mind about what they will leave their children at any time. It is also not clear whether both parties are expected to contribute to each child’s $10 million inheritance, or whether it will come from one parent.

Typically, separation agreements don’t deal with inheritance where children are concerned, Poumpouridis explained. Instead they are concerned with assets the divorcing parties have inherited from their relatives.

Poumpouridis said that she has worked through a handful of situations with high net worth clients where the divorce causes both parties to reach an agreement on what to pass along to their children – typically because they don’t want the other party to have it for himself or herself. This can happen with a property like a house, Poumpouridis said.

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The Gates’ announced earlier this week that they will divorce after 27 years of marriage, saying they no longer saw a pathway toward continued growth as a pair. They are expected to continue work on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation together.

Their three children are Jennifer, 25, Rory, 21, and Phoebe, 18. 

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