Discussions of the substantial estate taxes likely owed by James Gandolfini’s estate provide a glimpse into how even successful celebrities may not take full advantage of the estate tax planning strategies available to them. Mr. Gandolfini’s Will apparently divided his estate amongst several family members, including his wife, children and other loved ones. By dividing his estate this way a significant estate tax, likely north of 40% of his total estate, will be due 9 months after his date of death. The estate tax owed could have been completely avoided with certain estate planning strategies that many married couples take advantage of. With estate planning, a married couple can transfer an unlimited amount to their spouse upon their passing free from Federal and Minnesota estate taxes. Both federal and Minnesota estate tax laws allow for an unlimited marital deduction, meaning no estate tax would be owed on the amounts transferred directly to a spouse upon the death of the first spouse. Minnesota’s standalone estate tax, which provides a one million dollar exemption to each spouse, often requires additional estate tax planning and administration to fully utilize the available exemptions. Each person’s estate planning goals are unique and it is recommended that you consult with a qualified estate planning attorney to discuss your personal estate planning needs.