The taxman is coming after James Gandolfini‘s heirs.
The late “Sopranos” star’s will is “a disaster” that could see over $30 million of his estimated $70 million estate go to the government, a top estate lawyer told the Daily News.
“It’s a nightmare from a tax standpoint,” said William Zabel, who reviewed the document at The News’ request.
The 51-year-old’s “big mistake” was leaving 80% of his estate to his sisters and his 9-month-old daughter, Zabel said.
That made 80% of the estate subject to “death taxes” of about 55%, and the bill is due in nine months, Zabel said.
That means his family will have to start selling off his property and liquidating his assets soon in order to pay the tab, since it’s unlikely the actor had tens of millions of dollars in cash on hand.
“The government doesn’t accept the fact that it’s difficult to come up with the money you owe,” said the lawyer, who’s represented the likes of billionaire George Soros and “King of All Media” Howard Stern.
“They can get an extension of time to pay the entire amount, but they’re going to have pay a substantial amount in nine months.”
The 20 percent of the estate that Gandolfini left to wife Deborah Lin isn’t directly subject to the death tax, but even she’ll take a big hit, Zabel said.
The will calls for the shares to be divvied up after all the taxes are paid, which means Lin will get 20% of the $40 million left after taxes, instead of 20% of $70 million.
“It’s a catastrophe,” Zabel said.
The exact size of Gandolfini’s estate is unclear.
While his net worth has been estimated at $70 million, an inventory of his assets doesn’t have to be filed until December.
He also had a separate trust fund set up for his wife and at least one other for his 13-year-old, son Michael.
Michael’s includes a $7 million life insurance payout, which would not be affected by the will issues.
It’s unclear at this point if royalties from Gandolfini’s film career and his work on “The Sopranos” will go directly into the estate or to his wife through a separate trust.
If that money is going into the estate, it too will be subject to the death tax, Zabel said.
He said there are ways for the beloved actor’s family to get out from under the enormous tax burden, but it would be tricky.
One solution could be for the sisters and daughter to renounce their shares in the estate for payments later on down the road.
Gandolfini’s lawyer and one of the executors of his estate, Roger Haber, did not return a call for comment on Friday.
Gandolfini died of a massive heart attack while on a trip to Rome with his son last month.
James Gandolfini will a tax ‘disaster,’ says top estate lawyer
The late ‘Sopranos’ star’s will is ‘a disaster’ that could see over $30 million of his estimated $70 million estate go to the government, top estate lawyer William Zabel told the Daily News.
July 5, 2013
New York Daily News