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Lessons from the Estate Plans of Famous People


James Gandolfini, best known for his role as crime boss Tony Soprano in the popular TV drama "The Sopranos" left behind a widow, an ex-wife, a son age 14 from the first marriage, an infant daughter from the second marriage and two sisters when he died unexpectedly this year at age 51.

  • His son received his New York condominium in a trust, with the option to purchase it when the trust ended;

  • His home in Italy was left jointly to both children in a trust and could be sold only after each had reached age 25;

  • His son benefitted from a large life insurance policy, sheltered from tax inside a trust;

The residue of his estate, after certain other bequests, was split among his widow, two sisters and the infant daughter, with her 20% share being held in trust until age 21.

On the surface, Mr. Gandolfini's estate plan appears to be overly complicated, his assets seem unevenly distributed, and his plan does not appear concerned with taxes or tax saving strategies. But Mr. Gandolfini reportedly signed his last will just months before his sudden death, providing a clue that he was both deliberate in his estate planning and probably benefitted from the advice of wise counsel before drafting his estate planning documents.

We may never know the reasons behind his decisions, but we can avoid some of the confusion surrounding our own planning by crafting an estate plan that leaves a clear roadmap for those we leave behind. Our latest pamphlet A Legacy in Trust will inform you of the advantages of using a living trust, including avoiding the public scrutiny of probate proceedings. Every estate, large or small, is different and it makes sense to consult with an experienced estate planner who can recognize - and head off - potential problems, especially where blended families are involved.

You can help support our work in fighting blood cancers and save lives though wise gift planning. During the last 60 years LLS has invested more than $875 million to develop blood cancer therapies, helping to double, triple and even quadruple the survival rate for many blood cancers. Contact Ed Rodbro, National Director of Planned Giving at legacy@lls.org  or 888-773-9958 for more information. We will send you our free pamphlet A Legacy in Trust without cost or obligation. Contact us today!

last updated on Wednesday, December 18, 2013

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