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Tony Soprano’s Estate Plan

Clarkston Legal July 12, 2013

Actor James Gandolfini played New Jersey mob boss Tony Soprano on the long-running HBO series The Sopranos. I was a fan and thus, very disappointed at the news of his early demise.

In the stream of media obituaries that followed his death, it was no surprise to me that Gandolfini was considered an actor’s actor; he studied his craft and brought great skill to his roles.

One piece that I encountered about the late actor, from the New York Daily News, drilled into his estate plan. Apparently, Gandolfini’s estate plan was a train wreck, disaster, and a nightmare on tax street, all rolled into one.

Apparently, the problem arises where he left 80% of his sizable estate [over $70 million dollars] to his sister and infant daughter, subjecting this portion of his estate to New York’s 55% estate tax rate. His widow was covered by a trust, but she is only slated to receive 20% of his estate; but she only taxes her twenty percent net of all estate taxes.

Perhaps the actor wanted it this way, but the estate could have been planned in such a way to avoid such steep estate taxes. Tax and estate planning lawyers sometimes have clients that simply do not want their assets tied-up in complicated trusts or tax-avoidance schemes.

Really, it is the legislators and their penchant to create an endless supply of loopholes that is the real culprit in these cases, not the estate planning attorney.