Austrian Heiress Lets Public Decide on $27 Million Inheritance

Marlene Engelhorn, an Austrian heiress who inherited millions of euros from her grandmother, has taken an unconventional approach by asking strangers to determine the distribution of her $27 million inheritance. Following the death of her grandmother, Traudl Engelhorn-Vechiatto, in September 2022, Marlene sought the input of 50 randomly-selected Austrian citizens to help allocate her substantial wealth, as reported by the New York Times.

Engelhorn’s initiative was rooted in her strong belief in wealth redistribution. To facilitate this process, she engaged the group “Good Council for Redistribution,” which is dedicated to finding equitable ways to distribute wealth. According to a report by Business Insider, the group suggested that the funds be distributed to 77 charities over several years. These charitable initiatives span a wide range of causes, including women’s shelter associations, children’s charities, and organizations addressing the climate crisis.

The largest portion of the inheritance was designated for the environmental organization Naturschutzbund Österreich. Other potential beneficiaries included the World Inequality Lab, Reporters Without Borders, and the Catholic Charity Caritas, among others. This diverse allocation aims to address various social, environmental, and economic issues.

To ensure a fair and democratic process, the 50 chosen participants met over six weekends, where they held extensive discussions and meetings with experts from various fields, including poverty research and law. These experts provided valuable insights to help the participants make informed decisions. All participants were compensated for their travel expenses and provided with childcare to facilitate their involvement in the process.

Marlene Engelhorn has long been a vocal advocate for wealth redistribution and has publicly supported the implementation of inheritance taxes. In a statement clarifying her position and the rationale behind her decision, Marlene said, “A large part of my inherited wealth, which elevated me to a position of power simply by virtue of my birth, contradicting every democratic principle, has now been redistributed in accordance with democratic values.”

By involving ordinary citizens in the decision-making process, Engelhorn hopes to challenge traditional notions of wealth and power, emphasizing the importance of democratic principles and social justice. Her actions reflect a broader movement toward greater economic equity and highlight the potential for innovative approaches to philanthropy and wealth distribution. This initiative not only underscores her commitment to these values but also sets a precedent for others in similar positions to consider how their wealth can be used to benefit society as a whole.

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