Following a great deal of speculation regarding the possibility of a will contest, actor James Gandolfini’s will has been filed for probate with apparently no problems among his heirs. The former Sopranos star, whose estate is estimated at $70 million, arranged for most of his assets to transfer to his beneficiaries outside of probate. The probate petition indicates that Gandolfini’s probate estate is worth up to $10 million. The actor used other estate planning vehicles, such as a life insurance trust for his son.

In making your choices, consider what is most important to you:

  • Cost. Establishing a trust is more expensive than a will. However, depending on the value of your estate, probate costs could far exceed that of a trust administration. In addition to probate court costs, your executor is entitled to statutory commissions for performing his or her duties as Executor. You may decide what your trustee is paid.
  • Privacy. Probate filings are a matter of public record.
  • Nature of assets. If you have a business, real estate or other investments requiring flexibility in administration that would be better handled without court supervision, a trust may be the better option.
  • Deterring a will contest. It is more difficult to contest a trust in operation for many years than to raise an objection to a will in Surrogate’s Court.
  • A speedy process. Probate in New York State takes several months to complete.
  • Lack of reliable trustee. If you have no one that you implicitly trust to handle your affairs and don’t feel comfortable hiring a professional fiduciary, you may prefer the oversight of the Surrogate’s Court.

Gandolfini apparently used both the probate process and at least one trust vehicle to ensure that the people he cared about were in a good position. Armstrong & Lamberti, PLLC can do the same for you. Contact our office for an in-depth consultation to determine the best estate plan for your needs.

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