What happens when you die without a Will in Riverside or San Bernardino? The answer is that a probate administration will be required and the estate assets will be distributed under the law of intestacy. Every state has intestacy laws that dictate how an estate is distibuted for a person who dies without directing how his or her estate is to be distributed, either in a Will, trust or by beneficiary designation.

The New York Probate Court is currently administering the estate of Roman Blum. Blum, a holocaust survivor, died without an estate plan. His wife died in 1992 and he had no children. It appears that all his other family members were either killed in the holocaust or died in the intervening years.

Blum’s estate, valued at more than $40 million, is the largest unclaimed estate in New York state history. The mystery is why Blum, a successful real estate developer, failed to designate any heirs to his fortune. Mason Corn, Blum’s accountant and friend for over thirty years, stated “[t]wo weeks before he died, I had finally gotten him to sit down. He saw the end was coming. . . . I had to go away, and so he told me, ‘O.K., when you come back I will do it.’ But by then it was too late. We came this close, but we missed the boat.” Under New York’s interstacy laws, the state is the ultimate heir after all debts, including federal and New York estate taxes, have been paid. Unless a Will is found or relatives of Blum are discovered somewhere, Blum’s estate will pass to the state of New York after three years. The law is the same in California for decedents who die without any living family members.

Had Blum created an estate plan, he could have designated his intended beneficiaries. He might have desired to benefit charity or one or more of the small groups of friends who attended his funeral. It may never be known who he intended to benefit. A proper estate plan would have also avoided the cost of a probate proceeding and could have lowered or eliminated the estate taxes resulting from his death. The cost to probate a $40 million estate in California would be as much as $475,000 – much, much more than it would have cost Mr. Blum to have an estate plan designed to meet his desires.

More information about Mr. Blum’s life and his estate appeared in a recent New York Times article. For more information about probate, visit the website of Riverside probate attorney, Dennis Sandoval. For more information about an estate plan that will avoid probate, reduce estate taxes and designate your intended beneficiaries, visit the website of Riverside estate planning and tax law attorney, Dennis Sandoval. In the alternative, you can schedule a free one hour consultation with one of our Riverside estate planning and probate attorneys through our website or by calling 951-787-7711.