Jun 22, 2015

Couple's estate plan left everything to America - a Fourth of July story

With Independence Day around the corner, it's fitting to pass along this article I recently read. The story's central figure did not give his life for America, but evidently, he felt American gave life to him.

Peter Petrasek fled Nazi-occupied Europe and ultimately ended up living in Seattle, where he died in 2013 at the age of 85. His wife predeceased him. They had no children. What Petrasek apparently did have was a vast appreciation for his adoptive nation. In their wills, he and his wife left everything to "America." So in May of this year, the Petrasek estate deposited a cashier's check for $847,215.57 into the U.S. Treasury.

U.S. Assistant Attorney Peter Winn, who helped arrange for the transfer of the Petraseks' funds into the U.S. Treasury, commented: "This case is interesting because it seems to be that these were two immigrants who felt grateful to have this adoptive country open its arms to them after having a hard time in eastern Europe during World War II. It really reminds you how this country was founded by immigrants, and it's pretty obvious these folks felt pretty proud they were U.S. citizens."

As an estate planner, I know first-hand that people don't want to pay a penny more in taxes than they must. So the Petrasek story is certainly unusual. But not entirely unique: One of my own clients, Maria Woods, had the same idea. Maria left Germany for the U.S. during World War II, becoming a U.S. citizen in 1970. She built a small and successful rental property business in Florida, where she died in 2004. Maria was absolutely committed to leaving the bulk of her assets to the government, and that is the way we drew up her estate plan. I think of Maria often and fondly, especially around this time of year. You can read Maria's story here.

To all, a happy and healthy Fourth of July. 

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