Even the rich and famous sometimes fail to plan ahead. That is what attorneys are saying about the late James Gandolfini, the famous ‘Sopranos’ actor whose estate is supposedly facing a multi-million dollar tax burden. It is not clear whether the man truly understood hisestate value, a situation that has left his estate in shambles thanks to an inadequate will.

The deceased star could see as much as $30 million of his $70 million fortune sent to the coffers of the federal government. Experts in probate law say the man’s will was a “nightmare” due to poor planning. Gandolfini’s biggest mistake appears to be the decision to hand over the majority of his estate to his sisters and infant daughter. That choice made his fortune subject to the 55 percent estate tax rate. The bill will come due in just under a year.

As a result, family members of the 51-year-old actor will likely be required to begin liquidating his assets, holdings and property in order to pay the government. It is, after all, quite unlikely that Gandolfini simply had $30 million sitting in a bank. Luckily, the 20 percent that the man left to his wife will not be subject to the estate tax, but the implications of the taxes are staggering. Instead of receiving 20 percent of $70 million, the woman will only receive 20 percent of $40 million.

The exact size of the man’s estate remains unclear, and it is also uncertain whether he had additional trusts or other estate planning documents that have not yet been unearthed.

This case underscores the importance of planning ahead for your own death. Instead of risking the possibility of the government taking your hard-earned assets out of the hands of your heirs, protect your money and property through the use of an iron-clad estate plan. A probate attorney can help you learn more about the correct strategies for your financial future.

Luis E. Barreto