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New York man's $40M estate is still up for grabs

The fate of a New York millionaire's estate is still up for debate. The 97-year-old man, who made his millions developing real estate on Staten Island, died in 2012. He left behind an estate worth approximately $40 million; however, he did not leave any wills or estate planning documents to say where his money should go, and he does not have any surviving relatives.

His estate has been dubbed the biggest unclaimed estate in the history of New York. Since his death, an international search for any living heirs has ensued. Nevertheless, no surviving beneficiaries have been found.

Since the man's death, only two people have made an official claim to the man's estate in the Surrogate's Court of Staten Island. One will was submitted by a man in October 2013, and it is still in the process of being reviewed.

Another will was submitted recently as well. This second will is interesting because it describes a love story that survived years of separation following World War II. The woman says that the man left his entire estate to a Polish woman he had fallen in love with in World War II and that he said so in a letter he wrote to her in 1987.

Still, the public administrator in charge of the man's estate says that they have received numerous informal claims citing similar scenarios of love. The public administrator is skeptical of the woman's claims for other reasons as well -- mainly that the man did not have a copy of the will in his own paperwork. He said that any claims to this man's fortune must withstand enormous tests of proof. If no proof is ever met, then the man's estate will be moved to the Department of Finance for New York City, which already takes care of $12 billion in unclaimed funds.

Individuals who have a right to unclaimed funds and/or are in possession of wills that show they have a right to some or part of a deceased person's estate can assert their claims in court. Although the burden of proof may be high in such cases, those who do have a valid claim may be able to prove their status as rightful heir and beneficiary. Usually, the deceased individual's estate planning paperwork -- if any exists -- will weigh heavily during the litigation of such a matter.

Source: Tablet, "Holocaust Survivor’s $40 Million Estate Lingers" Isabel Fattal, Jun. 06, 2014

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