Anderson Cooper's large inheritance: A look at the tax obligations

CNN host Anderson Cooper is set to inherit most of the assets of his mother – fashionista and actress Gloria Vanderbilt – after she died last month at the age of 95.

While Vanderbilt’s other son, Chris Stokowski, will inherit a residence in midtown Manhattan, “all the rest” of her property will go to Cooper, 52, according to the will – viewed by The New York Post.

It is unknown exactly what Cooper is set to inherit. It is believed his mother left behind property, art, jewelry and other personal items.

The good news for Cooper? He will not be subject to any estate tax consequences, Christina Baltz, a partner in the private client and tax team at Withers, told FOX Business. Instead, Vanderbilt’s estate will pay those taxes. The estate will also pay any inheritance taxes.

The even better news is that if Cooper were to sell any of his mother’s assets, the items' cost basis would be raised to fair market value. That means, for example, if his mother bought a piece of jewelry for $100 – and it is now worth $500 – Cooper’s cost basis would be $500 and he could sell it for that amount without having to pay capital gains, Baltz said.

Vanderbilt’s fortune was widely estimated to be valued at $200 million, though Cooper told Howard Stern during a radio interview about 5 years ago that he didn’t expect to inherit it.

“I don’t believe in inheriting money. I think it’s an initiative sucker. I think it’s a curse,” Cooper said. “Who has inherited a lot of money that has gone on to do things in their own life? From the time I was growing up, if I felt that there was some pot of gold waiting for me, I don’t know that I would’ve been so motivated.”

However, Cooper will be subject to taxes on any income his inheritance generates.

Ideally, if Cooper wanted to disclaim his fortune, Vanderbilt would have included a clause in her will that stipulated if Cooper were not to survive her, his inheritance would go to another specified individual, Baltz said.

Cooper could also donate to charity, which would allow him to claim an income tax deduction. He can also give $11.4 million worth of assets away without having to pay gift taxes, Baltz said.


There are potential downsides for the prominent journalist, however. Cooper tends to be a private person, and the public death of his mother has thrust him – and his wealth – directly into the public view.

“People will know he’s worth a lot, and whatever comes with that may or may not be positive,” Baltz noted.

Vanderbilt was related to railroad pioneer Cornelius Vanderbilt. She died from stomach cancer on June 17.