When “Sopranos” actor James Gandolfini died in Italy this June of a heart attack, he not only left behind two young children, a wife, and a sizable estate, but he also left behind a last will and testament that is making many people review their own. Gandolfini died leaving behind assets worth an estimated $70 million. Unfortunately, because he left inheritances through his will that far exceed the federal estate tax exemption limit, it appears that his heirs will have to pay a sizable portion of their inheritances to the federal government.
Gandolfini’s will was recently filed with a New York Surrogate’s Court, the New York equivalent of a Florida probate court. The will details that Gandolfini left most of his property to his two children and his wife. The rest he divided between his sisters, nieces, and several close friends. Because his children are still minors, Gandolfini’s will directs that the inheritances they receive will be held in trust until they reach the age of 21. Until then, a trustee will manage their property on their behalf.
Yet many estate planning attorneys are shaking their heads at how the will apparently took no consideration of estate tax laws. As it appears now, the $70 million Gandolfini estate will be taxed by almost $30 million before any inheritances can be distributed. Had he taken some basic estate planning steps, Gandolfini could have preserved much of that wealth.