Earlier this year we shared information about a $40 million New York inheritance that was destined to go entirely to the government. 97-year old former NY developer Roman Blum died in January, leaving behind the multi-million dollar estate. Yet, it seems that Blum conducted no estate planning–no trust was created and no will was found. Not only that, but it was unclear if he had any living relatives. As a result, per intestacy rules in the state, the assets would eventually “escheat” to the government. This represented the largest unclaimed estate in New York history.
The case is often pointed to as a vivid reminder of the need to lay out your inheritance wishes ahead of time or risk losing control of the decision entirely.
Will is Found?
There was a new twist in the story last week, as a will purportedly for Mr. Blum was officially submitted to the Surrogate Court of Richmond County. The man who filed the will, in which he is named as the sole heir, is Anthony J. Allegrino II–an attorney from upstate New York. Thus far, he has not provided an extensive statement to the press, and so his exact relationship with Mr. Blum is unclear.
Now that the will has been officially submitted for probate, an initial hearing will be held next month. The document will then be scrutinized to determine its authenticity. Because the estate would go to the government otherwise, the attorney general will participate in the hearings as an interested party.
Expectedly, many familiar with the situation were immediately skeptical. For example, one of the few men close to Blum later his life–his friend and lawyer–voiced surprise at the filing of the will. He explained to the Staten Island Advocate: “”I don’t even know how to react. Things should get very interesting. I represented Roman Blum for almost 30 years. If he was going to do a will, I would have known about it.”
The entire case is an example of another problem with inadequate planning–it opens the door to potential abuse. Of course it is far too early to make any accusations against the man who claims to be the heir in this case. But the potential for fraud or forgery is undeniable in situations where a large fortune is left open. History demonstrates that one need not even have a large estate to entice wrongdoers to exploit the situation. The best preventative step is to have professional guidance when drafting a will and creating trusts so that, when the time comes, there is no mistaking your intentions.