If the name Roman Blum rings a bell, you might want to pay attention. The 97-year-old Holocaust survivor died in a Staten Island, New York hospital in January, but still, four months later, officials haven't been able to locate any relatives, distant or otherwise. Thing is, the state isn't necessarily trying to find some family members out of the kindness of their hearts -- there's a lot of money at stake. Mr. Blum left behind a fortune of $40 million, with no heirs.
The New York Times reports it's the largest unclaimed estate in the history of New York and it's shrouded in mystery. Why would Mr. Blum, a wealthy Staten Island real estate developer, a) not have any obvious family members and b) not have a will?
A friend of Mr. Blum sums it up, "He was a very smart man but he died like an idiot." He'd made, then cancelled, an appointment with his accountant to draw up a will not two weeks before he died.
As for his hard to find family, well, it's complicated. He and his wife, whom he divorced decades ago, did not have children. She wanted to adopt but he didn't. The state's done an international search for any blood relative, and so far, nothing's come up.
Usually, at this point, there's a very lucky third cousin twice removed who gets a life-changing phone call, but not in this case.
So where does the money go? If they don't find a relative in the next three years, the $40 million will go to the state's unclaimed funds office, which currently holds $12 billion. If, however, an heir does eventually show up, they will receive the entire sum.
Though wills are a morbid thought, they're also a necessary one. While not many of us will have amassed the type of fortune Mr. Blum did, it's still extremely important to figure out who gets what after we kick the bucket.
As parents, an updated will is the best thing you can do for your family. God forbid something happens to you, your will is there to enact your wishes and ease the burden on your loved ones. Why make Johnny Jr. and Jane Jr. try and split your net worth when you can do it for them ... and in private?
If you don't have a will, get one. And if you do, and you happen to have some Polish relatives that may or may not have the last name of Blum -- it's your lucky day.
Is your will up to date?
Photo via Damian Gadal/Flickr