An Estate Planning Lesson from James Gandolfinin (aka Tony Soprano)

Many of you might remember the actor James Gandolfini for his role as Tony Soprano on the HBO show The Sopranos. You might also remember that he passed away in Rome, Italy in June of 2013. Mr. Gandolfini is back in the news recently not because of his movies or career but because a probate case was recently opened in New York. This is not to say that the will contains salacious details about the family and their relationships, but that the cover sheet for the filing provides a surprising amount of information about his family and distributions to his family through the will, including the names of his children and the amount of money and shares of the estate to be divided between the heirs.


I’m not going to reprint the details of the division of Mr. Gandolfini’s assets here because I feel that there is no reason that they should have been made public in the first place. With proper planning and follow through with the transfer of assets, no one’s estate would be subject to the public disclosure of private facts required in a probate proceeding. A trust can avoid publishing your private information following your passing if you both form the trust and fully fund it during your lifetime.


Forming a trust will do you no good if you do not transfer assets to it or “fund” the trust. Mr. Gandolfini probably had a trust and a significant amount of assets in the trust, but his estate also included at least one million dollars in assets that were not funded to the trust and therefore required probate of his will. Assets with titles, like real property, cars, and bank accounts need to have their titles changed to that of the trust. Life insurance policies and retirement accounts need to be updated to add the trust as a beneficiary. Other assets such as household furniture or jewelry can be transferred by a dated assignment of interest.


By transferring the assets prior to your passing, you will have protected your estate from public disclosures and also simplified its administration. An experienced estate planning attorney at Nielsen Law Group is available for a complimentary review of your goals and how you can protect your family after your death. You can schedule your initial consultation by calling (480) 888-7111 or submitting a web request here.