A few weeks back we posted here on the blog the story of a deceased former New York real estate developer name Roman Blum. He died intestate, which means that he did not leave behind instructions regarding how his assets should be distributed.
This is the largest known intestacy case that the state of New York has ever seen. Blum left behind some $40 million, and nobody has come forward to claim an inheritance as a relative.
Under New York escheat rules the money will wind up in the state’s coffers if nobody comes forward within three years of the decedent’s passing with proof that he or she is a relative.
Most people look at this case and scratch their heads. An article about the matter in the New York Times indicates that he did have friends. And of course, he could have left money to charity.
A woman who passed away without any family is in the news recently for different reasons. This woman, Mary Kay Thomas, did in fact create an estate plan. In it she left 27.5% of her estate to the Friends of Collinsville Animal Shelter.
The question is, which Collinsville are we talking about?
The law firm that handled the estate sent the money, which totaled in excess of $188,000, to an animal shelter that is now called Ward-Wiseman Animal Haven in Collinsville, Oklahoma. Unfortunately for this shelter the money was actually bequeathed to an animal shelter in Collinsville, Illinois.
The law firm takes responsibility for their mistake, and in fact the firm is donating their fee to the Oklahoma shelter that was forced to give back the money.
My guess is the Mary Kay Thomas matter was not handled by an experienced estate planning attorney. It has Do It Yourself written all over it. My grandmother said it too…”You get what you pay for.” Nothing beats experience when it comes to creating an accurate and precise estate plan.
Author, President and Founding Attorney
Parman & Easterday
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