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Gandolfini's estate may be hit with hefty estate tax bill

James Gandolfini left behind a $70 million dollar estate; however, the government may be getting a hefty 40 percent of that amount, which adds to up to $30 million in taxes. The actor drew up his last will and testament just six months before his death, and, because of his generous gifts to his sisters and infant daughter, they may be getting less than the actor wanted them to receive.

Gandolfini left each of his two sisters 30 percent of his estate, with an additional 20 percent to his infant daughter. Additionally, through his estate planning, his wife will receive the remaining 20 percent of his estate. She will also receive all his personal property, except his jewelry and clothing, which the actor left to his teenage son.

His wife will not be subject to an estate tax liability for her 20 percent, because federal laws usually protect such inheritances from such liability until she dies. However, his daughter and sisters will have to foot 40 percent of the tax bill, excluding the initial $5.25 million federal exemption. Perhaps a better estate planning strategy on Gandolfini's part would have been leaving everything to his wife and expressing his wishes through her.

Proper estate planning is crucial, no matter what the size of the estate. Those who consult a knowledgeable and experienced attorney may have an advantage because estate planning and valuation is not as simple as it appears. Often, many factors come into consideration, and a well-educated legal professional will be able to make suggestions and prepare the correct documents. Capable and competent estate planning might insure that wishes are carried out with minimum tax liability or probate issues.

Source: Investment News, "Gandolfini's estate may get whacked with $30 million tax bill", Liz Skinner, July 11, 2013

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