As a group, women still hold a small fraction of the world’s total 10-figure fortunes. Forbes lists 1,426 people as the World’s Billionaires. Of this total, a mere 138 are women. However, that figure is an increase from 104 women last year.
The title of the world’s richest woman belongs to Liliane Bettencourt, the 90-year-old L’Oreal heiress. Forbes estimates Ms. Bettencourt’s fortune to be $30 billion, a $6 billion increase from last year. A spike in the value of L’Oreal shares over the past year helped put her back among the top ten richest for the first time in over a decade. Ms. Bettencourt reportedly weighs in as the 9th wealthiest overall, up from the 15th wealthiest in 2012.
Ms. Bettencourt, whose father founded the cosmetics giant, was replaced on the L’Oreal board in February 2012 by her 25 year-old grandson. Ms. Bettencourt is a widow with one daughter. She also suffers from dementia, and in 2011, her fortune was put under the guardianship of her daughter after a very public three-year legal battle.
The Bettencourt family has waged numerous legal battles against one another. In a 2008 challenge, Ms. Bettencourt’s daughter petitioned courts to investigate a reported $1 billion in cash and gifts her mother allegedly gave to a friend. Ms. Bettencourt’s daughter claimed, and Ms. Bettencourt vehemently denied, that the friend had taken advantage of her mother. The Bettencourt fortune and surrounding circumstances are interesting; they also serve as a reminder that a mental health care power of attorney should be part of any comprehensive estate plan.
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Contributed by MH Phoenix Estate Planning Attorney Andrea Claus.
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