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New York Case Highlights Dangers of Escheat

The dangers of not having a will in Greensboro, North Carolina, or creating an estate plan are well known to attorneys, though not so well known to the average person. Even though it’s rare, escheat is one of the dangers that estate planning attorneys often warn against. Escheat is the process through which a state inherits someone’s entire estate because that person failed to leave behind an adequate estate plan.

Such is the case of Roman Blum, a recently deceased New York real estate developer who left behind a $40 million fortune that appears to be headed into the state coffers of New York.

Mr. Blum died last year leaving behind a spouse who had predeceased him and no children. He also didn’t leave behind a will. A New York court appointed a state administrator to manage his estate, but when the administrator found that there were no apparent living relatives, it meant that Mr. Blum’s $40 million fortune would be inherited by the state.

Mr. Blum had been a Holocaust survivor and had lived in Queens since immigrating to the United States. With no living relatives having been identified, New York intestacy law directs that the state will inherit his property if no one can be found before 2013.

New York is not the only state that has such laws, and all states effectively use escheat as a final safety net if no living relatives survive a deceased person.

If no relatives are found, Mr. Blum’s estate would be the largest transfer to the state of New York through escheat.

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