Seattle Couple Leaves Estate To America: Couple Who Fled Nazi Germany Says 'Thank You' To U.S.

Heather Tooley

A Seattle couple left their estate to America for nearly $1 million. Peter and Joan Petrasek had identical wills in which the lawyer who handled their estate declared their money was to go "to the government of the United States of America."

ABC News reports that the cashier's check for the IRS was made in the amount of $847,215.57 and deposited into the U.S. Department of the Treasury's general funds on May 13. U.S. assistant attorney Peter Winn confirmed this generous donation. He worked with the Treasury Department on this and accepted the money for the U.S. government.

It's unclear why the Petraseks wanted to leave all of their money to the U.S. government. Winn believes that the Seattle couple left their estate to America as a "thank you" for the country taking them in after escaping eastern Europe during World War II when the Nazis were in full control.

Winn said this shows how much this couple appreciated the help they received from the U.S.

"This case is interesting because it seems to be that these were two immigrants who felt grateful to have this adoptive country open its arms to them after having a hard time in eastern Europe during World War II. It really reminds you how this country was founded by immigrants, and it's pretty obvious these folks felt pretty proud they were U.S. citizens."

Apparently, the process of the Seattle couple's estate going to America took a while -- three years to be exact. Peter Petrasek died on May 20, 2012 at 85, and Joan Petrasek died of breast cancer in 1998. Neither of them had any children or living relatives, attorney Carrie Balkema said.

Balkema says that after Joan's death, Peter mostly kept to himself and that he lived a frugal life. He used jugs of recycled oil to power his oil furnace. His housekeeping skills had gone a bit by the wayside as well, the attorney shared. Balkema added that the fact the couple left their entire estate to the government made her "kind of curious and sad" because she thinks they realized they didn't have any relatives to share their money with.

As for this couple's background, the Seattle Times reports that Peter Petrasek was just 12 when Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia. His father was forced into a concentration camp while his mother was left behind in Prague. His sister died in Allied bombing in Dresden, and all of their property was confiscated. Petrasek was put in a youth camp that was connected to the German air force. He managed to get out of Europe and head into Canada, where he met Joan, an Irish immigrant. They married, and by the late 1950s, the couple chose Seattle as their home.

Part of what made up the nearly $1 million that the Seattle couple's estate to America consisted of was existing bank accounts, stocks, a 1977 Ford Granada, a gun collection, and artwork that was sold.

[Photo Credit: Photo Courtesy of FBI/Newsmakers via Getty Images]

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