Our Pittsburgh Wills lawyers know that drafting a will is a very important step in planning where your assets will go after death and who will get how much. (And also how to limit the tax bill.) There are better and worse ways to draft these documents, as the world posthumously informed The Sopranos' James Gandolfini after he died this summer. His reported $70 million estate was arranged in such a way that it could be subject to $30 million in tax liabilities before any of the property is ever distributed.
Robert Wood, a blogger at Forbes took a look at the story, and came up with 6 pieces of wisdom that the world should take from Gandolfini's estate planning mishaps:
- 1) Keep your will private. Gandolfini's will was entered into probate, which made it public. Keeping your will private means that no one will ever know enough to speculate (or get angry).
- 2) Use a revocable trust. A revocable trust is a trust that you create while you are alive that accrues interest, and which after death will be distributed to beneficiaries. You still need a Will, but in your Will is a statement that all of your assets will go into the revocable trust. This is called a "pour-over will."
- 3) Think about taxes, but not only taxes. The primary purpose of a Will and a revocable trust is to make sure that the people who you want to provide for get what you intended for them to get. Therefore, if you don't want to transfer your property to someone who would receive an estate tax exemption then there is no reason to do it, just for tax purposes.
- 4) Consider tax efficient gifts and transfers. There are other ways to transfer money to people other than through your will. Think about using other options, other than just your will, to transfer your property.
- 5) Consider children's ages carefully. Although you might think that 21 is a good age at which your child can take over management of their finances, you might want to consider other ages. You can also structure your inheritance so that it is disbursed over time, instead of all at once.
- 6) Foreign property is different. Each county has its own inheritance laws, which may contradict the terms of your Will. Make sure that you have consulted attorneys in other countries to make sure that your inheritance complies with the law in all jurisdictions.
As James Gandolfini surely knew, estate planning is an involved and complex process. Contact our Allegheny County Estates lawyers to discuss your estate-planning situation today!