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Man dies with large estate and no heirs

New Jersey residents may be interested in to hear that in 2012, a 97-year-old Holocaust survivor and real estate developer passed away, leaving no relatives and no heirs. He also apparently did no estate planning - and left an estate worth nearly $40 million. A representative for the state comptroller's office said that this is the largest unclaimed estate that the state has ever seen.

Friends revealed that the man had a wife and child who were killed in the Holocaust. The man did not talk about them. Immediately after the war, he met a woman that he reportedly believed to be the last Jewish woman alive. Unfortunately, experiments conducted on her during the Holocaust left her infertile, and the couple eventually divorced.

A public administrator was appointed to auction off the man's assets and resolve the estate. The administrator is using the money to pay taxes owed by the man and conduct a full search for a will or relatives. If nothing is found, the money will be paid to the state. To date, an extensive search that included both Israel and Poland has revealed no evidence of living relatives.

This story illustrates exactly how important it is to leave an estate plan. When a person does not tell the state how assets should be distributed following death, the state distributes it in accordance with the law. If there are no heirs, the money goes to the state. Having an estate attorney prepare a will or estate plan can ensure that funds are instead distributed to a person's friends, church or favorite charity, even if there are no living relatives.

Source: Star Tribune, "Holocaust survivor left $40 million, but no heirs", JULIE SATOW, April 27, 2013

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