Best known for playing mob boss Tony Soprano, James Gandolfini was a beloved actor who could have saved his heirs from having to watch a huge hunk of his estate be consumed by federal and state estate taxes. He died unexpectedly at a relatively young 51 years of age, and probably thought he had years to plan ahead. With an estate of $70 million and no estate plan in place, about 80% of his estate was completely unprotected. He may have played a wise guy in front of the camera, but his estate planning was not wise at all.
The irrevocable charitable lead trust is a trust that cannot be amended, revised or cancelled. We would call that bullet-proof, and it would have been a good idea for preventing James Gandolfini's estate from being "whacked" by estate taxes. The financial website thestreet.com took a closer look at this powerful estate planning tool in"How to Protect Your Estate From Getting 'Whacked' Like James Gandolfini's.
This trustprovides a stream of income for a designated number of years to the specified charity. At the end of that period, the property held in trust reverts back to the donor or to the donor's designated beneficiary.
When the donor makes the gift under a charitable lead trust, he or she immediately receives a federal income tax deduction equal to the present value of the future income stream. But the donor is taxed every year on the value of the income interest that is payable to the charity.
A donor may create a charitable lead trust during his or her lifetime, or state in his or her will that it be established at death with the property returning years later to the designated heirs. When the donor's will establishes the trust at death, his or her estate receives an estate tax deduction instead of an income tax deduction.
The goal of the creator of a charitable lead trust is simple: reduce taxes on the estate that you leave to your heirs when you pass away. This is done by donating to charities from the estate until all taxes are reduced. Once this is accomplished the estate is subsequently transferred to your beneficiaries.
Don't let your estate get whacked! Work with a qualified estate planning attorney to ensure that you put a plan into place that will provide for your children and grandchildren way into the future. This means you need to work on minimizing your estate tax bill. While you are at it, talk with an estate planning attorney about an irrevocable charitable trust to see if it might be a good fit for your circumstances.
Reference: thestreet.com (November 8, 2015) "How to Protect Your Estate From Getting 'Whacked' Like James Gandolfini's"