Welcome to the amazing and mysterious story of Roman Blum, the Holocaust survivor who died last year at the age of 97 and left behind a $40 million inheritance to nobody.
Though his backstory is riddled with holes thanks to records being lost amid the chaos of World War II, the New York Times reports that Blum, whose birthdate is even in question, was born in Poland in 1914. There are no records of a wife and child Blum is supposed to have had before the outbreak of the war, but several friends told the Times that they existed and died in the Holocaust. Blum himself fled at the outset of the conflict, from Poland to Russia, where the Russians briefly detained him in prison before releasing him and putting him to work fighting the Nazis.
When the war was over, Blum met another Holocaust survivor, Eva, and married her. Alas, due to one of the more notable monsters of WWII, Eva was rumored to have been rendered sterile:
The Blums struggled to start a family. Mrs. Blum told her friends that she was unable to have children, and the couple spent thousands of dollars on doctors’ visits. According to stories that swirled around the couple, Mrs. Blum had been a subject of the dreaded Dr. Josef Mengele while at Auschwitz, and his experiments had rendered her infertile.
Though there was talk of adoption, Blum and his wife never ended up having children. Eva died in 1992, and Roman 20 years later, having amassed a fortune through Staten Island real estate. Blum also appears to have no living blood relatives in the United States, nor did he have the forethought to make a will, despite the fact that numerous friends told him he should. According to the New York comptroller, Blum's is now the largest unclaimed inheritance in the history of the state.
The public administrator handling Blum's case has hired a genealogist to try and track down a blood relation. If they can't, the money will go to New York City's Department of Finance, where it will be held for three years. If still no heir comes forth after that, part of the estate is withheld while the rest goes into the state's general fund. All of it is returned if an heir emerges. Since 1943, more than $12 billion in unclaimed funds have been amassed in New York.
As we watch the rest of this play out, let this be a reminder to handle your finances while you still can. A friend of Blum's told the Times, "He was a very smart man but he died like an idiot."