Gandolfini’s Will – A Case for the Revocable Trust

August 14, 2013Articles

The recent publication of the Last Will and Testament of Soprano’s star, James Gandolfini, has garnered tremendous attention. Although much of what has been written has focused on the significant death taxes that Gandolfini’s estate will owe, I am more interested in why Gandolfini’s wishes are public. Of course, the reason for this in Gandolofini’s case is that, once probated, Gandolfini’s Will became a public document.

But did it have to be that way? Not necessarily. An alternative to using a Will to distribute assets is to use a combination of a pour over Will and Revocable Trust. Many times, using this combination of documents is unnecessary and results in more expense for the client, but the Will and Revocable Trust combination does have its place. In many states, Revocable Trusts, unlike Wills, do not become public documents. As a result, Revocable Trusts are ideal for clients with a public profile or high net worth, or who otherwise have reasons to keep private their ideas about how to distribute their property.

Revocable Trusts should also be considered in two other common situations:

  • If real estate is owned in multiple states, a revocable trust eliminates the cost of probating the Will in more than one state.

  • In states or counties that charge a tax or fee based on the value of probate assets, a Revocable Trust can significantly reduce this fee.

    To be sure, Revocable Trusts are oversold - often with claims that they will reduce taxes and eliminate fights among heirs – but they certainly have their place for the right client.

Maybe Gandolfini should have listened to Don Corleone’s advice in this scene from The Godfather:

A Revocable Trust certainly would have helped.