When actor James Gandolfini died in June at the age of 51, he left behind an estate estimated to be worth about $70 million. In early July, a representative of his estate submitted his will to a New York Surrogate’s Court. In that document, Gandolfini left the majority of his estate to his children: a 13-year-old son and an eight-month-old girl.
Children cannot legally own property until they reach the age of 18, so Gandolfini’s will directs that their inheritances will be held in trust until the children become 21.
Gandolfini also left millions to his wife, Debra Lynn, and his two sisters. To each of his nieces he left $500,000, as well as $200,000 for his personal assistant and another $100,000 for his godson.
Unfortunately, it appears that Gandolfini didn’t adequately consider the tax implications of the testamentary gifts he left behind. Because most of his estate will be subject to federal and New York state estate taxes, the $70 million estate he left behind could be reduced to about $40 million after the estate pays the tax bill.
The federal estate tax exemption is $5.25 million. This means that estates worth up to this amount don’t have to pay anything in estate taxes. Because Gandolfini left behind a sizable estate and did not use estate tax mitigation strategies, his children and his spouse will end up actually inheriting much less than what Mr. Gandolfini outlined in his will.