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Learn From James Gandolfini’s Estate Planning Smart Decisions & Mistakes

James Gandolfini, the actor best known for his role as Tony Soprano, died suddenly on June 19, 2013 while on vacation in Italy. His last will and testament is readily available for anyone to see online, which is the first lesson we can take away from his tragic passing – a will is public. Establishing a trust keeps your private financial matters private.

Estate planning attorney Julie Garber, who writes a column on Wills & Estate Planning on About.com, lists 5 other estate planning lessons learned from James Gandolfini:

Regularly update your will. James Gandolfini updated his will only six months prior to his death – just a few months after the birth of his daughter. Updating his will after his daughter was born definitely saved his heirs a lot of headaches and heartaches.

Lifetime trusts are often better than outright distributions. Mr Gandolfini’s 13-year-old son and infant daughter will inherit a large portion each of the actor’s estimated $70 million estate once they reach turn 21 years of age. It’s unclear if a lifetime trust was considered, but a lifetime trust could have been established to, for example, make the children co-trustees at age 25 or 30, then sole trustees at the more mature age of 35 or 40. This would have protected their inherited assets for life, from creditors, bankruptcy, lawsuits, and divorce.

Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts are a smart move. James Gandolfini established an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILIT) for his son Michael and funded it with a $7 million life insurance policy. By setting up an ILIT, the proceeds from the insurance policy flow directly to the trust with no New York or federal estate taxes on the $7 million.

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