Much better known as Tony Soprano, a character loosely based on real-life New Jersey mobster Vincent “Vinny Ocean” Palermo, of the television show The Sopranos, James Joseph Gandolfini Jr was born 1961 and sadly died of a heart attack aged only 51 in June 2013. Gandolfini received widespread praise for his performance as the crime boss, winning three Emmy Awards, three Screen Actors Guild Awards and one Golden Globe Award.
Gandolfini was divorced from his first wife in 2002 (a union bearing his son Michael Gandolfini who was a teenager at the time of his death) and he died leaving behind his second wife Deborah and, at the time, their 8 month old baby daughter Liliana.
Gandolfini’s Will left his son all of his clothing and jewellery but failed to leave the then 13-year-old any cash. The Will declared that he had made other provisions for him (furthermore the Will leaves Michael and Liliana 50 percent shares of their father’s home and land in Italy).
It is believed that the overall value of Gandolfini’s estate is more than $70US million.
The Will was signed only 6 months prior to his death but importantly, and here commences the first lesson, the Will was completed after the birth of his second child.
Gandolfini also did not leave any cash for his current wife, Deborah, but the Will says she’s also provided for in a trust.
Subsequent to his divorce in 2002 Gandolfini created an insurance trust for the benefit of his son. This was essentially a policy of life insurance that would pay out upon death to the trust rather than his deceased estate. It is believed the trust fund will have at least $7US million in it.
Gandolfini left large sums of cash to other family members and friends and the majority share to his young daughter.
Lessons to be learned
As unforeseen and untimely as it was to see an actor at his peak die, no one is immune from an unexpected death. The phrase I’m too young to do my Will or I’ll get around to it eventually just doesn’t make any sense.
Gandolfini surely didn’t believe he was going to die so young, but he had established a well thought out and considered estate plan for those that he felt an obligation to benefit and provide for.
It serves as an important reminder to either create your will or update it should coincide with major life events such as divorce, marriage or the birth of children (once you get married any existing Will in place is automatically voided).
There are many ways to own assets, individually, jointly, in partnership, via a company or a trust. Where those assets reside are integral to an estate plan and can, if necessary, put assets outside the control of a Court or quarantine them from the possibility of an inheritance claim.
Gandolfini’s use of life insurance and a special purpose trust to benefit his son is a perfect example of an estate plan in action….it’s more than just a Will.
Here is the link to his Will.