GAGE PARK — It turns out it’s not just in the movies that you can get a huge inheritance from that uncle you never knew about.
A Gage Park man’s $11 million estate is being split among 119 relatives — many as far away as Europe — after a company unraveled his accounts and family tree. What’s yet to be uncovered is the mystery of how the man made his millions.
Joseph Stancak lived a quiet life in Gage Park and was found dead in his modest bungalow on South Troy Street in 2016, according to the state treasurer’s office. Little is known about him — except that he left behind a fortune, said Rudy Quinn, president of Linking Assets Inc., a company that finds unclaimed money.
Stancak never married, had no children or immediate family and died at 87 years old with no will, Quinn said. He was a lifelong Chicagoan who owned a boat named “Easy” and invested in mutual funds, said treasurer’s office spokesperson Greg Rivara. Neighbors told CBS News he lived frugally.
“No one knows what this guy did and what led him to diversify his wealth in the way that he did. … And we didn’t know his property would balloon to $11 million,” Quinn said. “We had to get creative.”
Stancak’s six siblings are dead, and none of them had children, Rivara said.
Investigators spent years pulling records to build a family tree of possible heirs, Quinn said. It grew roots “five generations deep,” leading back to “living cousins once or twice removed in many countries,” said attorney Kenneth Piercey, who represents Stancak’s estate.
The 119 heirs to Stancak’s millions are in Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, Iowa, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, and “there’s a handful in the Chicago area,” Piercey said.
“In my office I have a scroll 15 feet long that can go across the entire room,” Piercey said. “I’ve never seen a case this complicated before.”
The $11 million is the largest return of unclaimed money in United States history, Rivara said.
“And we don’t even have a picture of the guy,” Rivara said.
It’ll likely take one to four years to distribute the money, Piercey said. Most heirs live overseas, he said.
After taxes, the average heir will get a check in the $60,000 range, Piercey said.
None of them have heard of Stancak before, Piercey said.
“There’s no shortage of people who had money tucked away,” Piercey said. “And nobody ever knew.”
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