Who, you might ask, was Ernie Ulrich.
Ernie was just an average blue collar guy who served in the army during World War II and died in Chicago at age 85 on December 21, 1999. He never married and had no children. His two sisters were his only family. One sister, Margaret, died three months before him and his other sister, Lillian, died one month after him.
What he did have was a $1.5 million estate. In his will, which was prepared in 1992, he specified that if his sister, Margaret, predeceased him, the entire estate was to go to charity. He didn’t leave anything to Lillian because he felt that she was well provided for.
Late last year, more than 17 years after his death, it was discovered that his $1.5 million had never been distributed as he specified. The lawyer who was supposed to be his executor never carried out his wishes and, since the lawyer died in 2007, there’s no way to find out why.
Most of the money was in investment accounts which were eventually declared inactive. Once that happened, his assets went to the Illinois state treasurer as unclaimed property. That included 155 unclaimed properties such as 5,344 shares of Exxon Mobil stock and 6,460 shares of AT&T.
In November 2014, Michael Frerichs became the new state treasurer and he made it a priority to try to resolve high dollar unclaimed accounts. Ulrich’s was one of these. Using information from Ulrich’s financial records, the treasurer looked for rightful heirs and, eventually, located the will.
A new executor was named and she finally was able to fulfill Ulrich’s last bequests. He bequeathed one third of his estate to the Salvation Army; the remained was to be split among five other charities.
This is definitely a case of better late than never.
I know you can’t guarantee that your executor won’t make a mistake. However, you should take steps to ensure that more than one person knows where your will is located so that, hopefully, it won’t take 17 years for your estate to be distributed after you die.
For information about estate planning, go to our website www.diesmart.com.