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Man leaves $40 million to no one

A New York man real estate developer leaves the largest unclaimed estate in New York.
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Josephine Lim, May 7, 2013 6:20:54 PM

A New York real estate developer’s story serves as a cautionary tale on why it’s important to draw up a will. Last year, Roman Blum died at 97. The Holocaust survivor had no children and his former wife died in 1992. He never drew up a will and he left behind an estate worth $40 million. It’s the largest unclaimed estate in New York.

Blum was wealthy. He had $4 million in his bank account, a house on the market for $729,000, a piece of land worth about $4.5 million and a safety deposit box filled with coins, $100 bills and gold jewellery, according to the New York Times. Blum’s accountant told the NYT that they were about to draw a will, but he died before that could be done.

A public administrator is currently handling the case and if no living relative is found, then the state of New York becomes a little richer. The funds will be transferred to an unclaimed funds account if no one comes forward within three years. A portion of the estate will go to the comptroller’s office and some will go to New York State’s general fund. If a next of kin does come forward, all of the estate will go to them.

What would Canada have done?

How a situation like this is handled in Canada differs from province to province. In Alberta, legislation follows the province’s Unclaimed Personal Property and Vested Property Act where a registry is handled by the Tax and Revenue Administration (TRA). If after two years no heir has claimed the deceased’s property, the TRA holds onto any assets for 10 years. It if isn’t claimed within that timeframe, then it becomes the property of the province. If someone does step forward, then the TRA determines how much compensation the person receives. They take into account whether there were any income or expenses incurred while holding onto the assets.

Death may be a topic you opt to keep far from your mind, especially at a young age. But a will is important because it distributes your assets to however you see fit when you die. If you have multiple children, it’s a good way to keep the family peace and avoid conflicts about who gets what.

It’s most important to remember that it’s not good enough to just create the will, you also need to keep it up-to-date. Make sure to talk to your lawyer about any changes you make. Whenever you have new assets, such as purchasing another house, it’s important to make changes to your will as soon as possible so the net value is accurate. If you’re faced with life changes such as a divorce, having children or the death of a family member, these are times when you also might want to make adjustment. Whenever you create a new version and destroy the older ones, the new will takes effect.

If you don’t have a will, how your assets are distributed differs from province to province. A formula is used to divvy up your assets among your partner, children and relatives, but it might not split it how you want it to be done. Save yourself the trouble and draft up a will as soon as possible.

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Josephine Lim

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