Your Obituary: How Much Money You Left Your Favorite Niece


Do you want to be remembered for your accomplishments or for how much money you left your favorite niece?

When Sopranos star James Gandolfini tragically passed away in June, the intimate details of his estate plan made headlines.  Within days of his death, most major media outlets reported that under Mr. Gandolfini’s Will, his nieces Laura Antonacci and Jenna Antonacci each got $500,000, his son Michael and 8 month old daughter Liliana each got a 50% interest in his house in Italy, his personal assistant Trixie Flynn Bourne and his friend Thomas Richardson each got $200,000, and the list goes on.  The media sensationalized these gifts, which overshadowed any coverage of Mr. Gandolfini’s brilliant acting career.

Yet many famous people pass away without a peep in the news about their last wishes, so why were Mr. Gandolfini’s so public?

The answer is that other celebrities and public figures had a living trust, which usually remains private and can be shielded from public eyes, whereas Mr. Gandolfini only had a Will, which becomes a publicly available document as part of the probate process.

Even if you are not a famous actor, you might find comfort in knowing that your next door neighbor won’t be able to find out who you gave your wedding ring to, and how much money you gave to your favorite charity.  Also, the privacy of your beneficiaries is kept intact with a living trust, whereas Mr. Gandolfini’s nieces Laura and Jenna Antonacci (not famous actresses) had their names being thrown out by every news outlet for having received a windfall of $500,000 from their famous uncle.

Although the estate planning process is a private one, if you use a Will instead of a trust then after you die your gift to that favorite relative might be what you’re remembered for.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Ervin Cohen & Jessup LLP | Attorney Advertising

Written by:


Ervin Cohen & Jessup LLP on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:

Sign up to create your digest using LinkedIn*

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.

Already signed up? Log in here

*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.