Roman Blum died last year at age 97, leaving behind an estate worth $40 million -- and no will. His is the largest unclaimed estate in New York State history, according to the state comptroller’s office.
A worldwide search for heirs so far hasn’t turned up any living relatives. If, after three years, there’s still no sign of a will and no one comes forward to claim his assets, the money will go to New York State.
Blum moved to New York with his second wife, having lost the first during the Holocaust. A New York Times article recounts his experience with other survivors in the U.S. as he went on to build hundreds of buildings around Staten Island.
He was known as a shrewd businessman who ended up amassing "deeds on his desk piled up to the ceiling." He eventually divorced his wife, with whom he had no children, and lived the life of a bachelor. Eventually he was reduced to paranoia, once hiding $40,000 in his bathroom ceiling.
Mason D. Corn, Blum's accountant and friend for 30 years, said he had finally gotten Blum to agree to name beneficiaries. "I had to go away," Corn told The Times, "and so he told me, ‘O.K., when you come back I will do it.’ But by then it was too late. We came this close, but we missed the boat."
An old friend of Blum's believes there is a will out there. “Somewhere there is a plan: he made arrangements to use the money to build a home for children and to dedicate it to his child from before the war. I am sure of it.”
“I told him, ‘Look, I know you don’t want to talk about it, but’ -- and he was already a little bit drunk -- I said, ‘You have to do something. And he told me, he said, ‘I promise you, if anything happens to me, you are going to be proud. You’ll be proud of me'."