Gandolfini's estate may get whacked with $30 million tax bill

Late actor's bequests to family could have hefty costs

Jul 11, 2013 @ 3:53 pm

By Liz Skinner

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Gandolfini ((Photo: Bloomberg News))

The $70 million estate of the late actor James Gandolfini, best known for his role as mobster Tony Soprano, may owe a cool 40% in estate taxes due to the actor's generous bequests to his sisters and young daughter.

Estate tax attorney William Zabel said the provisions in Mr. Gandolfini's last will and testament suggest that his estate may owe up to $30 million in taxes.

Mr. Gandolfini signed his will in December, six months before he died of a heart attack while vacationing in Italy. He was 51 years old.

Mr. Gandolfini's will left 30% to each of two sisters and 20% to his daughter Liliana, who was born in October. His wife, Deborah Lin, is to receive the other 20% of his estate, as well as all his personal property other than his clothing and jewelry, which Mr. Gandolfini left to his 13-year-old son.

As his spouse, Ms. Lin's 20% would not immediately create an estate tax liability because federal rules usually allow such inheritances without a tax liability until her death. But the sisters and daughter who will inherit 80% of Mr. Gandolfini's estate will have to pay 40% to Uncle Sam beyond the first $5.25 million federal exemption.

“I have to imagine that any decent attorney, when Mr. Gandolfini updated his will recently, would have had to have had the conversation with him letting him know his estate would have quite a tax bill,” said tax specialist Frank Fantozzi.

It's possible Mr. Gandolfini was willing to pay the tax as long as his goals were met in the will, he said.

Or perhaps, given that he died younger than he likely expected, he may not have completed estate planning techniques that could have removed some of these assets from his estate, said Mr. Fantozzi, who does not have knowledge of Mr. Gandolfini's affairs.

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