Survivors attend a ceremony in the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland January 27, 2016, to mark the 71st anniversary of the liberation of the camp by Soviet troops and to remember the victims of the Holocaust.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
STATEN ISLAND, NY (TNS) — The fight for a Staten Island man's $40 million fortune now shifts to the key figures in a will that its filers claim stems from a Holocaust love story.
Except they're all deceased.
Lawyers in the Roman Blum case appeared in Surrogate's Court Thursday to begin the discovery process in a second will claiming his estate, including examining the signatures on the will filed on behalf of Polish woman, Teresa Musial.
"Ordinarily, we'd get the opportunity to scrutinize the witnesses to prevent fraud, but they're dead," said attorney Richard La Rosa, who represents the public administrator's office. "We're at a point where we need to investigate the will."
Attorney Peter Sipp, who represents Musial, submitted a will on behalf of Helena Pietrucha, who, attorneys contend, was Blum's lover during World War II.
Pietrucha died in 1999.
Musial was Pietrucha's caregiver and confidante for over 20 years, and the sole beneficiary of Ms. Pietrucha's estate, lawyers claim.
Sipp will have to prove the signatures of the witnesses on the will and Blum's signature itself are legitimate, La Rosa said.
Sipp claims the will was hand-drafted by Blum. The lawyer will also need a forensic handwriting expert to examine the document.
"We have the person who can identify the signature of the witnesses," Sipp said.
Blum, a Holocaust survivor from Poland
who lived in Annadale and amassed his wealth as a real estate developer, died in 2012 at the age of 97.
His wife died before him and they were childless.
Blum appeared to have no written will.
Blum and Pietrucha were engaged and were separated in Poland during the Holocaust, Sipp said.
The Russians arrested Pietrucha's family in the middle of the night and exiled them to Siberia, while Blum was captured by the Nazis and sent to a concentration camp, according to the lawyer.
Pietrucha was pregnant in 1939 with Blum's child and lost the baby on the way to Siberia, Sipp said.
The case is back on Jan. 24.
The first will filed by Anthony J. Allegrino, the former upstate man who had filed a petition claiming Blum's fortune, was denied probate for improper execution, according to court records.
Last year, La Rosa alleged Blum's signature on the will filed by Allegrino was a forgery. A forensic expert had determined the signature was fake in September 2014.
Blum's fortune is now down to $19 million after federal estate taxes, the lawyer said.
The public administrator is currently in charge of the estate.
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