Real-estate developer Roman Blum wasn't famous during his lifetime. But when the 97-year-old died in 2012, he quickly became famous for something he failed to do during his lifetime: write a will. Or, if he did write one, he neglected to leave it where someone could find it.
Blum, a Holocaust survivor with no living family members, passed away with an estate worth nearly $40 million. It is the largest unclaimed estate in the history of the state of New York, and unless the court-overseen administrator of his assets finds relatives through a genealogist search, every penny could end up going to the state government.
Legacies Left in Limbo
Millions of people don't have wills, never considering the consequences of their actions on the family members and friends who survive them.
Fortunately, getting a will in place doesn't have to be complicated; even a simple will is enough to express your intent for who should receive your assets after your death. Moreover, if you have minor children, wills allow you to name a guardian for them that will avoid any uncertainty about who you want to care for them if something happens to you.
At the same time you get your will done, you should also consider some other valuable estate-planning documents. Living wills and health-care proxies can give doctors and family members more guidance on how you want your medical care handled if you're incapacitated, while a durable power of attorney allows a trusted person to handle your finances when you can't. Here's a rundown of the 10 important documents you should have.
You may not be as rich or famous as the celebrities below, but their lives -- and deaths -- offer a cautionary tale for what can happen when you die intestate. Making a will might seem like a chore, but getting it done will go a long way toward avoiding family feuds after your death and having your memory overshadowed by discord among your loved ones.