Austrian heiress Marlene Engelhorn is redistributing most of her inheritance in protest of Austria’s refusal to create an inheritance tax. As a reflection of her social justice beliefs, Engelhorn is selecting a panel of 50 people from around the country to decide what to do with her $36.6 million inheritance instead of keeping it for herself.

Engelhorn is partnering with a research organization, Foresight Insitute, to execute this highly unusual plan. Christoph Hofinger, Foresight Institute’s managing director, explained to CBC how the process would work. The organization has sent 10,000 letters to Austrian residents over the age of 16, randomly selected from the country’s population registrar. The letters ask if they are interested in joining “Guter Rat,” which translates to Good Advice. Out of the citizens who respond to the message, 50 will be picked by Foresight to participate in the project. The organization plans to choose a group that will represent all of Austria’s regions and demographics, including gender, age, and income.

This group will then meet in Salzburg over six weekends sometime this year to determine where the $36.6 million fortune will go. The trip’s expenses, including lodging, will be paid for by Engelhorn, and participants will also be paid $1,753 per weekend.

According to the project’s website, there are a few limitations on what the participants can do with the money. They will not be permitted to keep it themselves or give it to friends or family. Any institutions or individuals considered “unconstitutional, hostile or inhumane” are also out of the running, as is anyone who intends to use the money for profit. “Other than that, really, it’s up to them to decide,” Engelhorn said. “I don’t get a veto or anything. I just have to witness it as everybody else does.”

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When Engelhorn found out how much she inherited from her grandmother in 2022, she said she tried to be happy about it but could not. “I was angry instead … because I knew it was really unfair, and there was no reason for me to get this that I could really justify,” she said to As It Happens host Nil Köksal. Her family made their fortune from a chemical company established by her ancestor, Friedrich Engelhorn, in 1865. The family also owned the pharmaceutical company Boehringer Mannheim, which they reportedly sold for $11 billion in 1997. Engelhorn believes she does not deserve to have any of this money because she did not work for it herself.

“I am only wealthy because I was born into a rich family. And I think in a democratic society of the 21st century, birth should not be the one thing that determines whether or not you’re gonna get to lead a very good life,” she said. Engelhorn is well-known for her efforts to instate an inheritance tax in Austria, but that does not appear to be changing any time soon. She believes letting the Good Advice Council decide what to do with the money is the next best thing. “It will be transparent, it will be public, it will be scrutinized, watched—and it will be very exciting to see what’s happening,” said Engelhorn.