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Woman Strikes Gold as Long-Lost Cousin's Heir

By Andrew Lu | Last updated on

A California substitute teacher has struck gold, inheriting $7.4 million in gold coins from a long-lost cousin.

While some play Powerball to strike millions, Arlene Magdanz simply relied on her genes.

Magdanz was discovered to be the only heir to a fortune of gold coins that once belonged to the reclusive Walter Samaszko. When Samasko died, cleaning crews discovered millions of dollars worth of gold coins stashed in his modest Nevada home, reports the Associated Press.

The crews found boxes of gold coins and bullion in the garage. The gold coins were reportedly neatly wrapped in foil and plastic cases, and were enough to fill two wheelbarrows.

Samaszko, who was 69 years old when he died, reportedly lived a quiet life in Carson City without a hint of the wealth he'd amassed, according to the AP. Samaszko apparently had no living relatives in Carson City, so genealogical researchers had to look for his next-closest relatives elsewhere. That's when they found Magdanz, Samaszko's first cousin and only living relative.

A court hearing is scheduled this week to certify Magdanz as the lone heir. Given the amount at stake, some other purported "heirs" have staked a claim on the gold as well. None of these alleged heirs have presented any evidence proving their relationship to Samaszko, but they could file a claim in probate court to argue for their share, reports the AP.

In general, to avoid a battle for your assets upon death, you will want to set up an estate plan. With a trust, will, or other device, you can name your beneficiaries and set up an orderly distribution of your assets upon death.

Without such a device, a court will be tasked with tracking down your heirs pursuant to your state's laws of intestacy. And as seen in the case of Samaszko's estate, those who are left out may bring a lawsuit to get their share.

Of course you don't need a stash of gold bullion in your garage to have an estate plan. In fact, it makes sense for almost anyone to plan for the distribution of their assets upon death. If you have specific questions about estate planning, an experienced trusts and estates attorney will be able to help.

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