Actor and producer, James Gandolfini was famously known as the likeable mafia man Tony Soprano on the long running cable television series, The Sopranos. On the show, family meant everything. Well, sort of, anyway. In real life, Gandolfini’s family really did mean everything and he had the best intentions when it came to providing for them.

However, he made a classic mistake by failing to take advantage of tax incentives, legal protections and opportunities. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) ended up taking half of his estate. Don’t fall into the same trap.

An Estate Planning Attorney Could Have Saved Gandolfini Millions

When James Gandolfini died suddenly in 2013, his estate was an estimated $70 million. In addition to leaving $1.6 million to friends and relatives and bequeathing properties and land in Italy to his kids, his will was fairly straight forward. He provided:

  • 30% to one sister
  • 30% to another sister
  • 20% to his wife
  • 20% to his daughter
  • Separate trusts for his wife and his 13-year-old son

Although he was very generous to his two sisters, his plan failed to take advantage of some key tax incentives and opportunities. Shockingly, the IRS ended up taking over half of his total net worth. An estate planning attorney could have saved millions of dollars that would have gone to his family instead of Uncle Sam.

3 Ways an Estate Planning Attorney Can Help You

It’s clear that anyone with an estate value equal to that of Gandolfini should have a knowledgeable estate planning attorney. However, you need a good estate planning attorney, too. Here are three ways an estate planning attorney can help you:

  1. Assess your current financial situation. Many people don’t fully understand what they have – or how to valuate it. A good planner always starts by reviewing your tax returns, income sources, liquid and illiquid assets, wills, insurance policies, and estate and retirement planning documents;
  1. Identify your goals. Identifying your goals and taking your current needs into account provides the foundation for a solid estate plan structure;
  1. Develop a plan. Developing an estate plan is where we can really make a difference – especially in:
  • Explaining how estate planning documents work
  • Weighing the pros and cons of each of those documents
  • Identifying tax issues and taking advantage of incentives and opportunities
  • Creating a “network” with other professionals such as CPAs, insurance professionals, and financial advisors

Best of all, an estate planning attorney can keep you on track by periodically reviewing your estate plan, advising you when to update your estate planning documents, and steer you in the right direction to avoid having your assets taken by the IRS.

Don’t fall into the same trap as Gandolfini. Protect your family by working with our estate planning attorney.

Please call (909) 256-6702 to discuss your questions and schedule a free consultation:
Trust and Estate, Elder Law, VA Benefits, Special Needs, Conservatorship, Trust Administration and Probate in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange and San Diego counties. We offer flat, hourly and contingent fees, based on the type of matter.




341 W. 1st St. Suite 100
Claremont, CA 91711

MARIVEL M. ZIALCITA is the founder of MMZ LAW, A Professional Corporation, where she practices in the areas of trust and estate, elder law, va benefits, special needs, conservatorship, trust administration and probate. Ms. Zialcita is a frequent speaker on trust and estate matters and holds memberships in the State Bar of California, Trust and Estate Section, The San Bernardino County Bar Association, Wealth Counsel and Elder Counsel. She currently assists in the pro bono legal services program at the James L. Brulte Senior Center in Rancho Cucamonga, California. She is based in Claremont, but assists clients throughout Southern California.

This information is educational information only and not legal advice.