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South Florida Estate Planning Law Blog

Insight & Commentary on Estate Planning, Wills, Trusts, Probate & Taxation

Man dies with $40 million, no will, and no heirs

Today’s crazy estate planning story comes form the New York Times, He Left a Fortune, to No One.

Roman Blum died in New York last year at 97 years old. He was a Holocaust survivor and a successful real estate developer worth over $40 million.

Not only did he die intestate, which means without a will, he apparently has no living heirs to even inherit the property.

When you die intestate, the state decides how your property is distributed, based upon state law. Each state’s law is different. Generally, there is some sort of division of property between the decedent’s surviving spouse and children. The amount each receives often depends upon whether the children are the children of the surviving spouse, or from a previous relationship. If there is no surviving spouse and no descendants, then the intestacy law usually dictates that the property is to be distributed to the closest living relative, based upon the Table of Consanguinity.

However, according to the story, they can’t find any relatives at all. When a person dies intestate and without heirs, then the property could escheat to the state. As my old property professor used to say, “They call it escheat because you got es-cheated!”

With simple estate planning, Mr. Blum could have left the entire $40 million to a charity – tax free. Now it will just go into New York’s general coffers, or to some lucky 8th cousin that they eventually find.

Table of Consanguinity showing degrees of relationship

About the Author

David ShulmanDavid is a Fort Lauderdale attorney with a law practice focused on estate planning, probate and trust administration, asset protection, guardianships, and tax. Among other things he is a Mac nerd, BBQ lover, and blogger. Follow him on Google or Twitter.View all posts by David Shulman →