By Harry S. Margolis
1. Reviewed their estate plans regularly. Both Gandolfini and Hoffman became much more financially successful and had additional children after they executed their wills. These changes in their circumstances mandated a review and update of their estate plans.
2. Worked with an estate planning specialist. Both Gandolfini and Hoffman engaged attorneys they used for other purposes to prepare their estate plans. All areas of the law are specialties today and no attorney can do a good job for her client in a field in which she is unfamiliar. We don’t know if the two stars’ attorneys urged them to use other counsel for their estate planning, but that would have been the appropriate advice.
3. Used revocable trusts instead of wills as their primary estate planning instruments. This would have saved their estates from substantial publicity and scrutiny, preventing the likes of us from second guessing their choices.
4. Married their partners. The estate tax code has significant advantages for married people, which is one of the reasons that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay and lesbian marriage. This may not be sufficient reason to get married, but it could have saved Gandolfini and Hoffman’s families millions of dollars in taxes.
5. Set up life insurance trusts for each of their children and partners. Gandolfini did this for his older children, but did not follow through when he had another child. These trusts can be structured to provide a significant tax free inheritance. Of course, to take advantage of this you have to be insurable, which might have been a problem for both given their weight (Gandolfini) and substance abuse (Hoffman) issues.