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Gandolfini’s Will Leaves Family Exposed to Heavy Estate Taxes

July 9, 2013

The late actor James Gandolfini’s untimely death last month at the age of 51 has apparently left his family facing a heavy estate tax bill, according to experts.

The star of the award-winning HBO series “The Sopranos” died of a heart attack during a visit to Rome with his son.

Estate lawyer William Zabel told the New York Daily News that the will Gandolfini left behind is a “disaster” from a tax standpoint, and said that more than $30 million of Galdolfini’s estimated $70 million estate could be owed to the government.

James Gandolfini
(photo by Isabelle Vautier)

The main problem is that Gandolfini left 80 percent of the estate to his sisters Leta and Johanna and his nine-month-old daughter Lilliana Ruth, including 30 percent each to the two sisters and 20 percent to his daughter, meaning 80 percent of the estate will be subject to the 55 percent estate tax rate. The taxes will be due in nine months, according to Zabel.

Gandolfini also bequeathed $1.7 million to his assistant and some of his friends and relatives, according to Daily Finance.

The will specifies that the shares in his estate should be divided up after the taxes are paid. Gandolfini left the other 20 percent of the estate to his wife Deborah Lin, but because of the heavy taxes, she will end up with 20 percent of the $40 million remaining in the estate, instead of 20 percent of the original $70 million. If he had bequeathed the bulk of his estate to his wife, she might have received an unlimited deduction for gifts made to a surviving spouse.

Gandolfini also reportedly set up a separate trust fund for his wife and at least one for his 13-year-old son Michael, who will also receive a life insurance payment of $7 million that will not be affected by the will and won’t be subject to the estate tax. Michael is not Lin’s son and Gandolfini apparently wanted to provide for his son in the will. But estate tax experts suggest that Gandolfini could have set up a marital trust that would have allowed his heirs to take advantage of the marital deduction while also preserving the majority of the estate from inheritance taxes.

Comments (2)
The article assumes that Mr. Gandolfini and his advisors were unaware of the tax implications of their actions. That may or may not be true. However, in any event I do certainly hope those advisors involved are current on their professional liability premiums.
Posted by bob from elgin | Tuesday, July 09 2013 at 5:42PM ET
Keep this article and give to your clients when they say Estate Planning is not necessary.
Posted by AGS | Tuesday, July 09 2013 at 9:20AM ET
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