Family business: Gandolfini created a will before unexpected death

Very few things in life are predictable. This fact is evident in the unexpected passing of acclaimed actor James Gandolfini at the age of 51. Readers in Pennsylvania may be interested to know that the "The Sopranos" star took precautions and went through the estate planning process to distribute his assets and property. By creating wills and trusts, individuals can save their loved ones a considerable amount of stress.

Initial reports indicate that Gandolfini left most of his estate to his wife, two children and siblings. As attorneys continue to sift through legal documents, the full extent of Gandolfini's final intentions will become known.

One interesting aspect of the actor's estate plan is that he created a trust for his son. Much of the estate -- including a valuable condominium in New York City -- will be transferred to the son when he turns 21. Oftentimes minor children aren't given assets until they reach a specified age. In many cases, this is so they reach an age at which they are considered mature enough to handle assets on their own.

A trust can be very valuable tool in estate planning, since it provides the testator with the ability to set specific conditions for administration. Beyond setting an age at which assets are administered, a trust can also include a number of other stipulations. This can be a very critical piece in ensuring that a person's legacy is preserved many years after his or her passing.

More than anything, this case shows that it's never too early to create a will. Even people without significant assets can benefit from going through the estate planning process. Without any documentation in place, assets are generally distributed according to relevant state laws, which may not accurately reflect a person's wishes.

Source: New York Post, "James Gandolfini leaves bulk of $70M estate to his two children," Julia Marsh, Jeane Macintosh and Kate Sheehy, July 3, 2013

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