Nearly 2.5 million Americans died last year, many without signing a will. One of them was apparently Roman Blum, a Holocaust survivor and New York real estate developer who was worth almost $40 million when he passed away in January 2012 at the age of 97 … If, after three years, there’s still no sign of his doing any estate planning and no one comes forward to claim his assets, all that money will go to New York State, under a legal rule called escheat.

Estate planning is not a do-it-yourself endeavor; there are plenty of opportunities to make costly mistakes. The biggest mistake is having no estate plan. Why? Because your life’s work may escheat to your state’s treasury by default.

At the very least, a proper will can avoid legal landmines like the escheat rule.

Escheat is the principle that there is no such thing as estate-limbo. Basically, an estate can sit in limbo for only so long before it gets swallowed up by the state where the decedent last resided. Consider the case of Roman Blum in New York, as reported in a recent Forbes article titled “N.Y. State Could Get $40 Million From Man Who Died Without A Will.” You can read all of the details in the original article, but Mr. Blum likely did not intend the State of New York to benefit from his life’s work as a real estate developer.

For whatever reason, many otherwise responsible Americans do not take time to meet with an estate planning attorney to ensure the proper administration and distribution of their estates. The failure to make proper estate plans is really a plan to fail at your estate planning.

For more information, please visit my estate planning website.

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