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Unraveling Paul Allen’s $26 billion estate

He co-founded a technology company that transformed communications, businesses and personal lives. He was a daring venture capitalist, a generous philanthropist, owner of headline-generating professional sports teams and a man whose taste in fine art resulted in a stunning collection that was the envy of the art world. Nevertheless, billionaire and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen was a private man who probably valued solitude more than any of his glittering possessions.

When Allen died recently of non-Hodgkin limphoma, his estate plan and vast holdings became subjects of intense speculation. How will his $26 billion estate be divided among family members, charities and businesses?

A recent news article on Allen’s passing pointed out that he had no spouse and no children who might traditionally be expected to receive large inheritances.

“Even though this is a person’s life and their personal holdings, it’s almost like the dissolution of a major corporation,” said an estate-planning attorney. Because of the high value and sprawling diversity of Allen’s interests, the distribution of his assets will take time, the lawyer said. “Even if things go along as you might expect, it could easily be three to five years."

Because of a pledge the billionaire made nearly a decade ago, it is widely expected that at least half of his fortune will go to charities that include the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation that he started with his sister. Its assets were valued at $766 million two years ago. He was also connected to a public charity – the Allen Institute – focused on medical research.

Allen also sat at the top of Vulcan Enterprises, the umbrella company overseeing his wealth, activism, investments and philanthropy. One arm of the company – Vulcan Real Estate – has a commercial portfolio valued at more than $1.5 billion. Vulcan Capital tends to the late entrepreneur’s investments.

Allen also owned the Seattle Seahawks and the Portland Trail Blazers; together valued at about $3 billion.

It will be interesting to learn more in coming days about how Allen had decided with his estate planning attorneys to spread his wealth and continue to have a positive impact on the world.

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