Tax Insights

Your Guide to State, Local, Federal, Estate + International Taxation

Amazing inheritance stories – how some came into crazy fortunes

inheritance, estate, taxWho hasn’t purchased a lottery ticket and then spent the next few days, or the remaining hours before the big draw, dreaming about how you will spend the millions of dollars you are going to win. All the extravagant vacations, homes, cars, opportunities to share with family and friends, dance before your eyes! But are you limiting yourself to dreams of a windfall only from the lottery? It’s time to dream bigger than the lottery! Perhaps a remarkable inheritance is in your future!

You could dream of your name being drawn out of a phone book by a wealthy individual randomly searching for beneficiaries! Luis Carlos de Noronha Cabral da Camara, a Portuguese aristocrat, selected random people from a Lisbon telephone directory to be his heirs. He picked them in the presence of witnesses 13 years before his death. Luis Carlos was a childless bachelor at the time of his demise at the age of 42. Some of his beneficiaries were so shocked at their good fortune that they initially believed they were being scammed.

Or, have you ever wondered if you were the secret child of wealthy parents? Eva Paole of Argentina was working as a maid when she discovered that her birth father was a wealthy landowner who had died in 1983. She believed she was entitled to his estate and took her claim to court. Following a legal battle and the exhumation of her grandmother’s remains to prove that Paole’s DNA linked her to the family, the woman inherited a $40 million estate.

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Perhaps you might have a mysterious, wealthy relative? Brothers Zsolt and Geza Peladi were homeless, living in poverty and selling junk for a living in Hungary when they learned they had inherited a fortune from a grandmother living in Germany. The siblings were located by charity workers and put in touch with the attorneys who were handling the estate of their maternal grandmother in Baden-Wurttenberg, Germany, The Telegraph reported. The once-penniless brothers received 4 billion pounds, which is the equivalent of about $5.1 billion in U.S. dollars.

A lavish inheritance is not only for people. Did you know our pets could also inherit a windfall?

Leona Helmsley, a billionaire hotel heiress renowned for her tough demeanor, had a soft spot for a dog named Trouble. She bought the Maltese after the death of her husband, Harry. She and her pet motored around town in a stretch limousine and she fed her crab cakes and cream cheese. When Helmsley died in 2007, she left Trouble a $12 million inheritance through a trust fund. A judge later reduced the dog’s inheritance to $2 million, but the loss did not rob Trouble of a life of ease. A caretaker tended to her around the clock at a cost of $100,000 a year until her death in 2011, after which Helmsley’s will stipulated that Trouble would lie next to her in the family mausoleum.

A homeless cat that wandered the streets of Rome was taken in by an elderly woman named Maria Assunta, the New York Daily News reported. When the woman died in 2011, she left behind a handwritten will in which she instructed her attorneys to find an animal welfare organization to receive her inheritance and look after the cat she had named Tommaso. Under Italian law, Tommaso could not inherit directly, so an appropriate trustee had to be found. The inheritance, equivalent to more than $8 million in U.S. currency, went to a fellow cat lover whom Assunta had met in a park a few weeks before her death.

Pamela Wheeler, EA