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Warren Buffett sets example for contributions from estates

Famed Omaha, Nebraska, businessman Warren Buffett announced he will donate $3.6 billion worth of shares in his Berkshire Hathaway company to five foundations as part of his estate plan.

In a company transaction, Buffett will convert 11,250 of his Class A shares of Berkshire Hathaway stock into 16.875 million Class B shares. Those Class B shares will be gifted to five foundations: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, Sherwood Foundation, Howard G. Buffett Foundation and NoVo Foundation, the company announced.

Berkshire Hathaway reported that Buffett, 88, has never sold any shares of his stock. Instead, he's gifted about 45% of the holdings he had in 2006 to the five foundations, which were worth about $34 billion.

In that year, he pledged to make annual gifts of the Berkshire B shares to the Gates foundation.

In fact, the Nebraska billionaire has expressed his plan to give away all of his Berkshire shares through gifts, and all shares will have been disseminated within 10 years after the settlement of his estate.

Buffett is the largest shareholder of Berkshire Hathaway, holding 37.4% of the Class A shares.

Most of us don't have huge stock portfolios and probably don't understand the distinction between Class A and B shares and all of the intricacies of Buffett's world.

Still, many of us have favorite charities or causes we would like to support through our estates, and such contributions can be written into our estate plans. While Buffett is giving billions, local charities appreciate any amount.

If you don't have an estate plan, or want to amend yours to include causes of your choice, call on attorney experienced in estate planning for guidance.

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