If It Can Happen To James Gandolfini . . . It Can Happen To You

Actor James Gandolfini’s sudden passing at such a young age was tragic, but now it appears the administration of his will adds insult to his family’s emotional injury. According to The New York Daily News, in a July 8, 2013 article titled James Gandolfini Will A Tax ‘Disaster,’ Says Top Estate Lawyer, the language of the will could lead to a $30 million tax bill for the estimated $70 million estate.  The article goes on to report that according to estate lawyer William Zabel, by leaving 80% of the estate to his sisters and infant daughter, the estate’s “death taxes” could run approximately 55% and be due in nine months.

James Gandolfini

James Gandolfini (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We may never know whether Mr. Gandolfini had his will drafted in this way on purpose after being fully advised by his attorney of the ramifications and alternatives, whether this is the result of poor tax lawyering, or whether there is some other scenario (like a change in the estate tax law) that led to this result. Regardless, for legal consumers it is important to see this as a cautionary tale.

Ask your attorney what estate size is subject to “death taxes” and whether that number can change in the future.  Ask him/her how your will would be administered after your passing and whether your estate would be or could be subject to “death taxes.”  Inquire about different methods of setting up your will and how each of those would or could operate.  Find out the benefits and the costs of each methodology.  And, depending on the size and complexity of the estate, consider getting a second, unrelated opinion.

You’ve got options.  The Center for Legal Practice Reform can help you navigate the attorney/client relationship and level the playing field.  Call LPR today for a free consultation – (301) 351-7970.

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