A leading American property and real estate lawyer, William D Zabel, has labelled the late James Gandolfini's will a "nightmare". A former star of the acclaimed television crime drama The Sopranos, the actor died last month, at the age of 51, leaving behind an estate valued at $70m (roughly £47m).
Zabel negotiated a record $7.2bn settlement between the US government and Jeffrey M Picower, in the matter of the bankruptcy case involving Bernard L Madoff. The deal was recognised as the largest civil forfeiture in the country's history.
"It's a nightmare from a tax standpoint. [The] big mistake was leaving 80% of his estate to his sisters and his 9-month-old daughter. That made 80% of the estate subject to death taxes of about 55%, and the bill is due in nine months," Zabel told New York Daily News.
According to Zabel, the US government could, and probably will, claim up to $30m of Gandolfini's wealth; the actor's wife, Deborah Lin, is therefore entitled to only 20% of $40m and not the full estate.
"The 20% of the estate Gandolfini left to Lin isn't directly subject to the death tax but even she'll take a big hit. 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 added.
The largest share of the estate has been willed to the actor's children - 13 year old son Michael and nine month old daughter Liliana Ruth - and his sisters - Johanna Antonacci and Leta Gandolfini. And according to the terms of the document [read the full will here], Michael will inherit through a trust that matures on his 21st birthday.
The NY Daily News believes the trust funds for Lin and Michael are independent of each other and the latter includes $7m in life insurance that will not be affected by the main will. Michael's trust also includes an option to purchase a condominium in West Village in New York City. The actor also owned property in Italy, which will be divided equally between Michael and Liliana, when the latter is 25 years old.