How a Ghost Gave $156 Million to Charity

by Jason on August 11, 2010

Casper was a friendly ghost.

Slimer was green and gooey, but you couldn’t help but love him.

And of course there’s Patrick Swayze in the movie Ghost – that was just, well, weird.

None of them, however, gave away insane amounts of money.

I’ve never heard of a philanthropic ghost until now – the ghost of Johnny Carson.

Tax filings uncovered by The Smoking Gun reveal the late, great Johnny Carson became Hollywood’s biggest philantrhopist last year as he donated $156 million to various charities.

Carson died in 2005!

Philanthropic from the Grave

How did he give away millions from the grave?

Simple – Carson actually did the proper estate planning before he passed away!

The former Tonight Show host set up a charitable trust and the John W. Carson foundation before he passed, which was able to give grants to various organizations while he lived and obviously still after he died.

No one knows for sure how much is left in the Carson estate or what percentage the $156 million represents since there has never been a public accounting of it.

Where Do Johnny Carson’s Donations Go?

The tax return lists 67 separate donations to various charities.  Johnny Carson routinely gave to AIDS charities, schools, and environmental groups during his lifetime.

Apparently there are future plans to donate to the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles as well as the Los Angeles free clinic, Planned Parenthood and other organizations.

Of course, part of the money has to go to the gentlemen who oversee the financial management of the foundation who both receive $90,000 a year each for part-time work.

That’s not a bad part-time gig!

Donating to Charity

Ok, so it wasn’t really a ghost – this was all planned out during Carson’s life time.  He didn’t make a come back to sign the tax return.

Whether you agree with who he gave his money to or not, there’s a few big financial lessons to be learned here:

  1. Start planning before your dead
  2. Get the proper estate planning documents in place
  3. Start giving money away – you’ll find greater joy and happiness in giving and helping others

It’s interesting how celebrities can teach us quite a bit about money!

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