“Gloria Vanderbilt was 95 years old when she died. What an extraordinary life. What an extraordinary mom. What an incredible woman.”
So said Anderson Cooper, the most well known of his famous mother’s children, in his eulogy.
Vanderbilt was extraordinary. Although she was a scion of a great fortune and inherited a trust fund that was worth $5 million in 1925 (the equivalent of $73 million today), she established herself as an artist and fashion entrepreneur in her own right and was reportedly worth around $200 million at the time of her death from stomach cancer. But Cooper won’t be getting a penny of it, although his siblings (half brothers Stan and Chris Stokowski) may get some.
In a radio interview with Howard Stern in 2014, Cooper said, “My mom’s made clear to me that there’s no trust fund. There’s none of that.” He went on to call inheritance a curse and posited that he might not have had the incentive to work if he’d been cushioned by family finances.
His mother was of the same mind. By the time she was 10 years old, a custody battle between her mother and aunt generated headlines that called her the “poor little rich girl,” a nickname that “bothered me enormously,” Vanderbilt told the Associated Press in 2016. “I didn’t see any of the press—the newspapers were kept from me. I didn’t know what it meant. I didn’t feel poor and I didn’t feel rich. It really did influence me enormously to make something of my life when I realized what it meant.”
Vanderbilt’s will has not been made public yet, but that hasn’t stopped speculation about where her fortune might go. A 2018 article from WealthAdvisor.com suggests that neither of Cooper’s siblings would benefit from an inheritance, either, as one is estranged and the other has kept a very low profile. They did note that it might also be unlikely that Vanderbilt’s money would go to charity.
“[She’s not known for her passionate support of any particular cause. Like Anderson Cooper, her advocacy is a lot more diffuse, so it’s anybody’s guess what charity or charities she would favor in her estate plan. We know, however, that she hasn’t signed Warren Buffett’s “giving pledge” and so is not under any public commitment to give her money away instead of leaving the bulk of it to relatives or other people she may like.”
The only certainty is that both Vanderbilt and Cooper viewed her wealth as a barrier to hard work and achievement. If that belief holds, perhaps someone truly needy will be the beneficiary of her vast fortune.