Holocaust Survivor Dies With $40M, No Heirs

By Aditi Mukherji, JD on April 30, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Roman Blum, a Holocaust survivor and real estate developer, left a staggering fortune behind -- to no one. Why Mr. Blum would die without a will is nothing short of mind-boggling. His is the largest unclaimed estate in New York state's history, reports The New York Times.

With an estate worth $40 million and no heirs in sight, the state may soon claim the crown to a fairy tale ending worthy of "Anastasia."

Intestate Succession

As a divorced man with no children, none of Roman Blum's friends know why he never wrote a will, reports the Times.

When you die without a will, you die "intestate." If this happens, the intestacy laws of your state describe how your assets will be divided among your heirs. The goal is to make sure that your assets are distributed in the same way an average person would have wanted if he had written a will.

So in Roman Blum's case, if he'd had children, his estate would have gone to them, even without a will. While his ex-wife would not have been eligible -- only a current spouse or a blood relative can claim an inheritance when there isn't a will -- his friends thought he might have distant relatives back in Poland.

But after a worldwide search in Poland and Israel, no dice.

Escheating to the State

Since there's no way to fairly distribute his assets, Blum's $40 million estate is being liquidated, reports The Times.

Once his assets are liquidated -- including land, a house, jewelry, and photos and books on the Holocaust -- whatever money is left over will go to New York City's Department of Finance. If no one claims the funds for three years, the money will go to the state comptroller's office of unclaimed funds. In legal terms, this means Blum's assets will escheat to the state.

But if an heir comes forward, the entire amount is returned.

In short, the intestacy laws are in place to ensure that even if you die without a will, your assets will be distributed relatively fairly. But some don't think Blum's route is the way to go -- especially when you have no recognizable heirs.

"He was a very smart man but he died like an idiot," Paul Skurka, a fellow Holocaust survivor and friend of Blum's, told the Times.

If you agree with Skurka and you want your belongings to be handed down in a certain way, you should consider consulting an experienced attorney to draft a will.

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