Several times in this space we have told you why you should have an estate plan. We have also told you that if you do not have an estate plan, then your property will be distributed according to state law, which means that it will go to your closing living relatives. Some people are content with that and do not see a problem with having their property end up with their closest relatives. However, a recent case in Nevada shows that you cannot count on your relatives receiving the property quickly and easily because who your relatives are must be determined before your property can be divided.
Walter Samasko Jr. was a recluse who was found dead in his Nevada home by local officials. Those same officials also found a fortune in gold in the home. Samasko had amassed $7.4 million in gold coins and bars and he kept it all at home. The government officials had no idea if Samasko had any living relatives and they had to conduct a search. Many people claimed to be related to Samasko in one way or another. All of these claims had to be investigated. Finally, after months, officials have decided that Arlene Magdon is Samasko’s cousin and only living relative. She will get all of the gold.
The case illustrates that if you are going to rely on intestate succession to pass your property on to your heirs, then you also have to rely on government officials being able to determine who your heirs are.
Duffy Law Office is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.