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Dividing Paul Allen's empire will not come easy

Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, passed away recently. Allen leaves no spouse or children to inherit his vast $26 billion fortune and considerable assets. This leaves the question of which individuals and what companies may inherit the Allen estate.

Allen's success began in 1975 when he and Bill Gates founded the software juggernaut Microsoft in Gates' garage in Albuquerque. In the years since, Allen built significant success in real estate, venture capital, professional sports teams, philanthropic ventures and other endeavors.

Assets and time

The company Vulcan was one of the primary vehicles for Allen's investments. Despite the fact that it represents less than 1/25th of his total estate, Vulcan is estimated to be worth at least $1.5 billion. Additionally, The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, one of Allen's philanthropic interests, is estimated to be worth over $750 million on its own.

Bloomberg recently reported on Allen's passing and the resulting fallout from his death. In an interview with estate attorney Darren Wallace, Wallace stated that it will be years before Allen's estate is fully settled, "Even though this is a person's life and their personal holdings, it's almost like the dissolution of a major corporation. Even if things go along as you might expect, it could easily be three to five years."

Litigation enters estate administration

Wallace implying that estate administration will take up to five years if proceedings go smoothly is telling of the reality of high-value administration. Not only will executors be contending with federal taxes and other murky financial considerations, there is likely to be litigious in-fighting among the stakeholders of Allen's many companies and potentially among his family.

It is common for business ventures and stakeholding parties to litigate matters when they feel they deserve a larger share of a business being divided. This litigation can be time-consuming but can significantly pay off if an individual receives their fair share.

The same can be said for Allen's remaining family. While he passed away without a spouse or children, Allen's extended family may have grounds to argue that they should be granted his personal assets. Allen amassed one of the greatest private art collections in the world, not to mention his personal real estate, homes, vehicles and other possessions.

While there are no formal complaints over Allen's estate yet, there is no telling what the future will bring to this extremely successful, philanthropic individual's empire.

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