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New Jersey inheritance tax: Lessons from James Gandolfini

New Jersey fans of the television show "The Sopranos" may have already heard that James Gandolfini passed away recently. Now that his family has to settle his estate, it has come to light that Gandolfini's estate plan may not have been well thought out. His family is going to have to pay nearly $30 million in inheritance tax.

The right estate plan can help family members avoid having to pay estate tax. Currently, an individual can create a trust and fund it with up to $5.25 million tax free. That number is doubled for married couples. In fact, married couples can transfer assets to each other in any amount without having to pay taxes. However, the situation becomes more complicated when the people inheriting are children, siblings, parents or other relatives and friends.

The other thing that people can learn from Gandolfini's passing is that a will is made public record upon death since it must be filed with the court. Anyone that doesn't want their private business out there for the world to see may want to consider setting up trusts. A will can point the executor/executrix to the trusts without divulging any additional information. Trust not only protect against tax liability, but also protect privacy.

There are many different types of trusts that can be used depending on estate planning goals. At their most basic level, trusts address inheritance tax issues, but they can also address other issues such as when and how assets are distributed to the beneficiary of the trust. Part of James Gandolfini's legacy has turned out to be an illustration for people around the country and in New Jersey of how important it is to have a good estate plan.

Source: fa-mag.com, "Learning From Gandolfini's Estate Plan 'Disaster'," Anthony Greco, July 19, 2013