Tony Soprano’s will got it right
Lawyers are tut-tutting over the taxes due on the probate estate of James (Tony Soprano) Gandolfini. He was worth some $70 million when he died of a heart attack while traveling in Italy in June. He left the bulk of his money to his sisters, wife and children — some in cash, some in trust. The estate-tax bill will probably run around $30 million, according to New York attorney William Zabel. Shocking, he says. The heirs were rooked.
Rooked? When they get to divide $40 million they didn’t earn?
Legal beagles had lots of posthumous advice for Gandolfini and his legal team. Why wasn’t there a larger insurance trust? Howcome he hadn’t set up a family partnership to shift assets out of the estate? Surely, they buzzed, Gandolfini would have twisted his estate into more trusts and tax shelters, had he lived a little longer.
But maybe Gandolfini was the smart one. Simple trusts for minors or for people who don’t want to handle the money are one thing. But other kinds of trusts can severely limit your family’s choices and keep them tangled with lawyers forever. Also, when you need money, it’s no fun going cup-in-hand to a bank trustee.
Let the next generation make its own life, free of the dead hand from the grave. Putting taxes ahead of family means that you’ve got your priorities wrong.
I also have no problem with the size of the estate tax. A country where citizens can earn so much money, by their talent alone, is worth supporting. Maybe Gandolfini thought that way, too.
Leaving $40 million for your family ought to be enough.
Tags: James Gandolfini