The search is on for heirs to a Holocaust survivor’s $40 million fortune, and if none are found, the state of New York might get a big chunk of it.
Roman Blum was a real estate developer who died at the age of 97 in January 2012, the New York Times reports. After World War II, the holocaust survivor emigrated from Poland to New York, but other key details of his life are a mystery. For example, there are two conflicting dates for his birthdate: Sept. 16, 1944, based on U.S. records; and Sept. 14, 1944, based on German records. His birthplace is also in question: Blum said he was from Warsaw, Poland, while those who knew him said he was from Chelm, Poland.
Blum’s profile in the Times includes how he fled Poland, first going to Russia, where he was imprisoned for a brief time before fighting the Nazis. Blum met his wife, Eva, a survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp, after the war. The couple spent some time in Germany, where Roman worked as a smuggler, then moved to New York and settled in Forrest Hills, Queens, N.Y., in 1949, the Times reports.
The profile paints Blum as a successful businessman who built hundreds of houses on Staten Island, but he had his flaws, leaving his wife to live in Staten Island and enjoying his life, money and time as a bachelor. The couple had no children, Eva died in 1992, and Blum never remarried.
Later in life he became increasingly suspicious of people, believing they wanted his money. But he never said who should get it when he passed. Despite his success and fortune, Blum did not leave a will, and the public administrator who is handling his estate, Gary D. Gotlin, is beginning the search for an heir.
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Gotlin will use some of Blum’s $40 million fortune to settle Blum’s accounts, including any outstanding taxes, while also putting his property on the market. Gotlin will also hire a genealogist and will continue to look for a possible will that Blum left behind.
Blum was in the final stages of creating a will, according to his accountant, Mason D. Corn, who said that his friend of 30 years finally agreed to name his beneficiaries but died before he could create the will, the Times notes.
“He saw the end was coming," Corn said. "He was becoming mentally feeble. We agreed [about doing a will]. I had to go away, and so he told me, ‘OK, when you come back, I will do it.’ But by then, it was too late. We came this close, but we missed the boat.”
If the search for an heir or will yield no results, Blum’s fortune will transfer to New York City’s Department of Finance, where it will sit for three years before going to the New York State Comptroller’s Office of Unclaimed Funds. A portion of Blum’s fortune will go to New York’s general fund, but if an heir does emerge, Blum’s fortune will go to that individual.