A Carson City man, Walter Samaszko, passed away in June with apparently no heirs and very little personal wealth. However, cleaners preparing his house for sale discovered he held over $7 million in gold. The Mercury News reports that a San Rafael, California woman appears to be the sole heir to the fortune.
Mr. Samaszko, an anti-government champion, was dead for at least one month before neighbors discovered his corpse. Months later, the vast fortune was uncovered and includes stock accounts valued at over $165,000 and cash of $12,000. The estimates of the $7 million estate are solely based on the weight of the gold. However, there are rare, antique coins in the collection which could drive the total value far higher.
While this case is extremely unique for a number of reasons, there are lessons to be learned:
One, never assume the size or extent of anyone’s estate. Despite appearances to the contrary, there are many wealthy individuals who show no signs of their wealth.
Two, plan now for incapacity and death. There is no telling what Mr. Samaszko intended to do with his gold collection. However, some simple estate planning could have assisted him in avoiding over $1 million in taxes. Likely Mr. Samaszko would be abhorred to think that the government will be the beneficiary of his failure to plan.
Three, keep in contact with relatives, whether distant or remote. You never know if you might end up becoming the lucky recipient of a gift or bequest from a family member.
The October 2012 issue of Consumer Reports highlights numerous steps one can take upon the passing of a family member or loved one. Among the listed items, some steps are overlooked and cause greater anguish and financial difficulty for those who survive the decedent.
While many employers receive word that an employee has passed, few surviving family members contact human resources or employe benefits coordinators. Employer specialists can quickly begin the process of obtaining benefits and providing any pay due. Certain financial institutions “drag their feet” when it comes time to pay out benefits so starting the pay-out process sooner is always beneficial.
Many family members fail to look for prepaid burial plans or other arrangements made by the decedent during lifetime. If the decedent already paid for funeral services, the mortuary will pick-up the body and assist the family members with the completion of vital tasks. The mortuary or funeral home will help obtain death certificates and can assist in the coordination of the memorial or funeral service. As with many industries, the costs of these services have risen such that a prepaid plan can result in significant savings.
Hopefully, you are well aware of your loved ones’ wishes such that you will know whether a prepaid plan is in effect. If not, you should at least know where the decedent kept important documents such as a trust, will, and financial documents. If you have no idea where such important information is kept by your loved one, you should discuss the matter soon. For assistance discussing these sensitive matters, you can contact an estate planning attorney today.
– Jason C. Morris, Esq.