Learning From Gandolfini’s Estate Plan ‘Disaster’

An article in Private Wealth calls James Gandolfini’s estate plan a disaster.

Tony Soprano may have been an expert at hiding his money from the feds, but actor James Gandolfini, the recently deceased actor who portrayed the fictional New Jersey mob boss on TV, apparently was not.

Moreover, advisors say that wealthy families can take some lessons from the mistakes the award-winning actor made in mapping out his estate plan.

Federal and state tax collectors will take more than $30 million of Gandolfini’s estimated $70 million estate, according to published reports. Gandolfini, who starred in the acclaimed HBO series The Sopranos from 1999 to 2007, died of a heart attack while vacationing in Rome last month at age 51. Estate attorney William Zabel, who reviewed Gandolfini’s will for the New York Daily News, called it “a disaster.”

People rarely plan well for their death.  That’s one of the reasons I wrote BEFORE I GO, to help people plan for the one thing that we can guarantee will happen to us all. 

The reason is psychological.  Planning for death forces us to realize that we are mortal and the end comes for all of us.  In addition, Gandolfini died in the prime of his life, illustrating perfectly that the assumption that we’re going to live to a ripe old age is not well founded.  We can be struck down by a heart attack, a bus, or some fatal disease.  That’s why once we have accumulated a modicum of wealth, we need to meet with a financial planner, an estate planner and a tax expert.  We should also be prepared to involve insurance professionals. 

If 29-year-old Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t have a platoon of professionals looking into these issues, he’s making a big mistake.  His wealth just increased by $3.8 billion … today.



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