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James Gandolfini’s estate plan ended up costing him about $30 million, not in legal fees, but in a missed opportunity to avoid estate taxes. The simple use of a marital trust ( a QTIP –“Qualified Terminable Interest Property” trust) would have given his second wife an income stream, preserved the principal for his children, and saved millions.

A QTIP is one of the basics in planning for second marriages (it can be easily used in other circumstances, as well). The principal of the trust is exempt from estate taxes as a marital transfer. The surviving spouse receives all of the income and has the authority to direct re-investment of the assets to produce more income. Upon the survivor’s death, the beneficiary rights ordinarily pass to the children.

Ben Franklin’s wisdom seems appropo: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.