Soprano star leaves unequal distribution of assets to his children

Determining the best way to distribute assets amongst children and loved ones is difficult. In some instances, an equal split of assets makes sense. In others, it may be wise to provide a "fair" split. This could be the case if one child went to a private college and you covered the bill while another has yet to go. In that situation it would make sense to leave more for the second child to use towards his or her schooling. This is just one example that could lead a parent into the "equal" versus "fair" dilemma when it comes to splitting assets in an estate plan.

James Gandolfini, of Soprano fame, faced the same dilemma. The star appears to have developed an estate plan that provides an unequal, but arguably fair, split to his remaining children. His son, a teenager, reportedly received a trust funded by a life insurance policy of seven million dollars while his daughter, an infant, received twenty percent of the star's estate. It is unknown if additional trusts were used, since these legal tools are often private. However, if the information that was made public is accurate, each heir received a different portion of assets.

Determining the best way to split assets can be difficult and is a very personal decision. Two important questions include:

  • What type of split should be used? Is an equal split or disproportionate one best for your situation? Although an even split may be, in theory, the easiest way to distribute assets it may not be the best for each situation. Some children may have received gifts from parents during their lifetime that others did not, leading to an unfair end result. In other situations, some children may be doing better financially and not require the additional windfall, while their siblings may struggle to make ends meet. In still other situations, a child may have special needs and require a more unique plan.
  • What assets should be used to fund the split? Should the assets be divided as a percentage of the estate or should they fund a trust? Determining the best legal tools for an estate plan will vary with each situation.

If you choose to provide unequally for your loved ones in your estate plan, it may be best to discuss your wishes openly. This could reduce the risk of confusion and help to ensure that your wishes are not challenged.

It is also wise to seek the counsel of an experienced estate planning lawyer to help develop your plan. This professional can help you choose legal tools that will better ensure assets are distributed according to your wishes.