The Slatest

World War II Refugee and Wife Make the U.S. Government Sole Heir to Their Entire Estate

Seattle couple gives their life’s savings to Uncle Sam.

Photo by Ben Sklar/Getty Images

Peter and Joan Petrasek didn’t have any children or relatives in the U.S., so they made an unusually patriotic decision when they devised a will—they bequeathed all of their assets “to the government of the United States of America.” The donation of nearly $850,000 to the American government is without question quite a gesture. But why?

It’s not totally clear. The will had no more specifics than its directive to pass on the couple’s assets, cash in the bank, and proceeds from the sale of their Seattle home, to the United States. Joan Petrasek died more than a decade ago and John Petrasek passed away in 2012. It took several years to tie up loose ends of the estate, but last month the check was written to the Department of Treasury.

Peter Winn, the assistant U.S. attorney in Seattle who worked on accepting the check on behalf of the U.S government, speculated to the Seattle Times, why Peter Petrasek who escaped Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia as a young boy would want to leave his life’s earnings to the government:

“As a refugee from World War II, he was very grateful to his adopted country. He grew up with a lot of people in Eastern Europe who would have been happy to change places with him… There are still a lot of people in the world who would envy him the life he lived. He wanted to make a statement about how much it meant to him to be an American citizen.”

While it appears Winn took a hefty dose of poetic license—it’s a nice thought.