Friday, October 5, 2007

"Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" Hardly!

There is an intriguing article in the Irish Abroad online newspaper dated 13 September 2007 title "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?"

The gist of the story is:

"Bridget Kelly from Moyross in Limerick saw an advertisement in the Irish Independent newspaper looking for Irish relatives of an American gentleman by the name of Richard Riordan-Schalk. Kelly recognized some of the names that were listed as ancestors of Riordan-Schalk’s and called attorney Paul Lanzillota of the Manning and Murray law firm in Arlington, Virginia.

"However, Lanzillota told the Irish Voice on Tuesday there are another 160 possible relatives of the dead man.“At this point we have 161 names of people who might have been related to Richard Riordan-Schalk,” he said."

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"“The only heirs we can’t find are the Irish heirs. One half of this estate is going to the German side of the family and one half to the Irish,” said Lanzillota.“We found the Germans very quickly, some of whom were in Chicago and one in Massachusetts. But for Ireland the research went back as far as 1842.

"The difficulty now is proving that they are heirs,” said Lanzillota, explaining that another $300,000 of the estate has been given an individual to settle a lawsuit."

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"Anyone who can prove to be related to the following may be eligible, if proven, to claim part of the estate that Richard Riordan Schalk left behind: David Riordan, who was born in 1808 and died in 1865. Mary Riordan (nee McCarthy) date of birth and death not known. Both resided in Limerick.

"Bartholomew Daly and Mary Daly (nee Walsh) who married on March 28, 1852 in Freemount, Co. Cork. They emigrated to Chicago and had three children, Elizabeth Daly Riordan, (September 9, 1858 to July 7, 1932), Michael Daly (October 10, 1856-death unknown) and Eileen Daly (July 2, 1864-death unknown)."

It's interesting to see how others have reported this story. For instance:

* Dick Eastman on his blog posted "Who Wants to be a Millionaire? - Irish Edition"

* An obituary for Richard Riordan-Schalk appeared in the National Press Club newsletter for 15 April 2004 here.

* The Limerick (Ireland) Leader newspaper published a similar article titled "Search for Heirs of $1.9 Million Fortune."

So far, they have identified 161 heirs. It's unclear if these are all equal shares -- they probably aren't if the siblings of Richard Riordan-Schalk's ancestors way back when did not have the same number of kids. But if the shares were equal, the $1.9 million would be split into shares of 11,801.24. And that's before the attorneys fees finding these relatives and processing mountains of paper. Not much, eh?

I did a search like this for my second cousin several years ago - our great-uncle died without children but he left a will leaving his estate to charity and friends. My cousin wanted to contest the will, and asked me to investigate since I have records for many of the descendants of Thomas and Julia (White) Richmond (8 siblings had issue).

Assuming that the estate would be split evenly among descendants of our great-uncle's siblings, I figured that my cousin's share would be about $125,000 out of a $1 million estate (her grandmother had 1 child who had 1 child), and mine would have been about 11,000 (since my grandmother had 7 children who had 11 children). But we would have had to contest the will - our shares would have disappeared into legal fees in a flash if not sooner. But it was fun to pursue and think about!

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