But as Walter Samaszko Jr.'s house was being cleared for sale, officials made a surprise discovery: gold bars and coins valued at $7 million.
"Nobody had any clue he was hoarding the gold," Carson City Clerk-Recorder Alan Glover told the Las Vegas Sun, adding it was found stored in boxes in the house and garage.
The 69-year-old Samaszko was found dead in his home in late June after neighbors called authorities. He had been dead of heart problems for at least a month, according to the coroner.
He had lived in the house since the 1960s, and his mother lived with him until her death in 1992.
He left no will and had no apparent close relatives. But using a list of those who attended the mother's funeral, Glover's office tracked down Arlene Magdanz, a first cousin in San Rafael, Calif., the Sun reported.
A recording said her phone number had been disconnected.
"Our goal is to get the most money for the heir," Glover said.
The gold coins had been minted as early as the 1840s in such countries as Mexico, England, Austria and South Africa, he said.
Based on just the weight of the gold alone, Glover estimates their worth at $7 million. Because some of the coins appear to be collector's items, the value could go much higher, he said.
Neighbors told authorities they knew little about Samaszko other than he was quiet and not a problem.
Samaszko was "anti-government," Carson City's Nevada Appeal reported, and a few conspiracy theory books were found in the home along with several guns.
"He never went to a doctor," Glover told the newspaper. "He was obsessed with getting diseases from shots."
Samaszko also had stock accounts of more than $165,000 and another $12,000 in cash at the house.
Glover said he wants to start selling off the gold as soon as possible. The IRS wants a share of the total, he said, and the case is relatively simple other than the agency's involvement.
"At least you don't have 12 relatives fighting," Glover told the Appeal.