Roman Blum was a Holocaust survivor and real estate developer who passed away in 2012 with an estate worth nearly $40 million — but he died without a will. Moreover, since his death, no surviving heirs have been located, which means that his entire estate could end up going to the state of New York, where he was a resident.
When a person dies without a will, he or she is what is called “intestate.” At that point, state intestacy laws take over to determine the fate of the estate. Although the specifics vary by jurisdiction, each state provides the order in which surviving relatives would inherit the estate of someone who has died intestate. If there are no surviving relatives who qualify, the estate is transferred to the state itself under a legal concept called “escheat.”
In New York, if no one comes forward within three years of an intestate person’s death to claim his or her rightful share, the estate is turned over to the state — and that is precisely the position Blum’s estate is in right now, firmly within that three-year period.
Now that Blum is gone, because he had apparently made no provisions for his estate while he was alive, he has no say in how his multi-millions of dollar are distributed. As noted by this thorough article at Forbes, Blum’s situation shows just how important it is to undertake estate planning activities before one’s death, unless, of course, one truly wishes that his or her entire estate reverts to the state upon death.
Apparently Blum’s longtime friend and accountant had urged him to sign the documents necessary to direct the distribution of his estate, but Blum just didn’t get around to it. He was 97 years old when he died in January 2012.