New York real estate developer Roman Blum was a Holocaust survivor, whose first wife and son died in the war. His second wife, who passed away in 1992, was infertile as a result of Joseph Mengele’s medical experiments in the concentration camps. Roman Blum died alone and childless.

He also died with an estate of $40 million.

Perhaps he felt invincible for surviving Hitler. Maybe it was superstition or his need for secrecy regarding his finances. Or, perhaps, he felt that there was no one in his life that should receive his money. Whatever his reasoning, the fact remains that Roman Blum never wrote a will.

The search for “laughing heirs”

A massive search is currently underway to locate any of Roman’s possible living relatives, however distant, people who, no doubt, had such a remote connection to Roman that they would probably feel no grief about his passing. For this reason, the law refers to them as “laughing heirs.” If no relatives are found within the next few years, New York will receive the largest unclaimed estate in the state’s history.

How New York State distributes an estate when there is no will

New York’s laws of intestate succession dictate how your estate is distributed if you have no will, or if your will is not valid:

  • If you leave behind a spouse and no children, your spouse will inherit everything
  • If you leave a spouse and children, your spouse will get one-half of your estate plus $50,000, and your children will share the rest by right of representation, meaning, if they predecease (die before) you with children, their share is distributed to their issue (descedents), e.g., your grandchildren or great-grandchildren
  • If you leave children but no spouse, your children will share the estate by representation
  • If you leave no spouse or children, your parents will inherit your entire estate
  • If your parents are also deceased, their children (your siblings) will inherit by representation
  • If you have no living siblings, your estate will go to your grandparents or their issue by representation (aunts and uncles, or first cousins and their issue by representation if the aunts and uncles are deceased)
  • If there are no living grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins or their issue, your estate will go to your great-grandparents or their issue by representation (your great-uncles and aunts, or second-cousins and their issue)

If your personal representative is unable to locate any relatives, your entire estate will fall (“escheat”) to the State of New York.

Decide for yourself where your money will go

Many are shocked at the lack of foresight demonstrated by a successful man who had the ability to make a tremendous impact through charitable giving, but who did nothing to make that happen. Some of Roman’s friends are clinging to the hope that a will may be found, leaving the money for an orphanage dedicated to his lost son. In the meantime, New York State is waiting.

Don’t leave it to the government to decide what to do with your hard earned money. Our compassionate Staten Island will attorneys can help you review your options and create an estate plan that will put you at ease. Call our office today for a consultation.

Anthony Lamberti on G+