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Continued: Estate planning lessons from Gandolfini's will

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  • Last update: July 27, 2013 - 7:46 PM

Another expert agreed that taxes might not always be the most important consideration. “All these people who are out there talking about the taxes, they don’t get it,” said Leiha Macauley, a partner and head of the Boston office at the law firm Day Pitney. “The person who is trying to provide for the children from the first marriage, the second marriage, and a wife who may be the same age as his sisters, he doesn’t care about estate taxes. He wants to provide for them equally.”

Had he wanted to avoid federal estate taxes, he could have left everything to his wife, Macauley said.

The one thing Haber could have saved Gandolfini from was this column and every other article or blog written about his will. They would not have been possible if Gandolfini had had a ­revocable trust.

Such a trust would have enabled him to have a simple “pour-over will,” which would have said that his possessions had been put into the trust. No one would know anything more about his assets or his intentions.

This was the case with John Lennon’s will, which put all of his property into a trust that he had set up while alive. It left the world guessing about who got what and when, and is a model of how to keep private affairs private for any prominent person.

“Why would a guy with this much notoriety have a will in the public record?” said John Scroggin, founder of the Scroggin & Co. law firm. “I have high-profile clients and we do pour-over wills as much as anything to avoid this media brouhaha.”

Haber said that Gandolfini’s children would be fine because the actor had focused on their guardians and trustees more than the money they might inherit.

“Jim was a very smart guy, and he took all of this seriously,” he said. “He did what he wanted to with full awareness of the laws.”

If that is the case, then his estate plan accomplished its ­purpose, regardless of what others think.

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  • James Gandolfini, as Tony Soprano, head of the New Jersey crime family portrayed in HBO’s “The Sopranos.” He died of a heart attack on June 19.

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