For some reasons, Property students love the idea of the escheat. That is, when a person dies intestate, with no heirs ascertainable anywhere in the globe, the property goes to the state. These issues are very, very rare. It is almost always possible, if you bother looking, to find some distant relative. For most people with small assets, it may not be worth it.
But for Staten Island resident Roman Blum, who died at the age of 97 with a fortune of $40 million and no will, it becomes a big deal. I wrote about this story last year. Blum, a Holocaust survivor who outlived just about everyone in his family, had no interest in writing a will. And now, Richmond County (where I’m from) is trying to find someone, anyone to give the fortune to.
“This is the only case where there are no heirs, no lawful heirs, and also there are no children,” Richmond County Public Administrator Gary Gotlin explained.
Gotlin has been tasked with searching the globe for secret heirs or a hidden will. The task has been complicated because so many of Blum’s relatives from Poland died in the Holocaust.
“We have all of his paperwork, all of his financials, all of his private letters,” Gotlin said.
Gotlin and his team went so far as to use a Geiger-type device and cameras to look behind and inside the walls of his home. They found gold and jewelry, but no will.
Blum’s attorney urged him to write a will, but he didn’t. With no family, his money is in limbo.
“He had no children, spouse, sisters, brothers, parents, grandparents, or first cousins, or first cousins once-removed,” Trusts and Estate Attorney, Herb Nass explained.
As you may expect, lots of people are suddenly claiming the inheritance.
That fact has not stopped thousands of people from trying to cash in.
Hundreds of letters — most coming from Europe and including include photos, family trees, and sad stories — have come from people who claim to have a connection to the man with the millions.
One letter told of a woman who said that she and Blum had been lovers during the war.
So far, none of the submissions has turned up an heir.
And if no heirs are found, the money would escheat to the state.
Carlin reported the money will likely end up in the New York State Unclaimed Fund, which includes forgotten bank accounts and totals $12 billion. Blum’s fortune will simply sit there.