• Sweden edition

Relatives settle over eccentric Swede's tin can riches

Published: 29 Mar 2010 14:58 GMT+02:00
Updated: 29 Mar 2010 17:48 GMT+02:00

The relatives of a man who spent the last three decades collecting empty cans on the streets of a town in northern Sweden have settled out of court over the division of his unlikely fortune.

At the time of his death in the autumn of 2008, 60-year-old Curt Degerman, known to the residents of Skellefteå as “Burk-Curt” (‘Tin-Can Curt’), had amassed a fortune worth more than 12 million kronor ($1.4 million).

Degerman, whose riches were put down to an inherently frugal nature and shrewd stock market investments, wrote a will leaving his fortune to a cousin who had visited him regularly in the later years of his life.

But after the sizeable nature of Tin-Can Curt's estate came to light, an uncle decided to contest the right of his relative to the unexpected windfall.

According to Sweden's inheritance law the uncle held the legal right to inherit his nephew's riches and the dispute was headed for Skellefteå district court until the pair elected to settle their differences out of court on Monday.

After a couple of hours of negotiations the pair confirmed that they had been able to reach agreement but neither party was prepared to discuss any details.

While alive, Curt Degerman cut a solitary figure cycling around the northern Swedish town in a blue jacket and ragged pants.

In between collecting cans and bottles from the coastal city's rubbish bins he could be found engrossed in the business papers in the city library studying the stock market.

"He went to the library every day because he didn’t buy newspapers. There he read [Swedish business daily] Dagens Industri,” a cousin told Expressen at the time of his death.

“He knew stocks inside out.”

And Tin-Can Curt used that investment nous to turn the modest deposits he collected from returning empty cans into mutual funds worth more than 8 million kronor.

In addition, he had purchased 124 gold bars valued at 2.6 million kronor and had nearly 47,000 kronor in the bank.

Tin-Can Curt also owned his own home, which was found to have 3,000 kronor in loose change, bringing the total value of his estate to 12,005,877 kronor.

The closet millionaire died of a heart attack in his sleep in the autumn 2008.

TT/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

17:20 March 29, 2010 by Andy from NYC
"The uncle held the legal right to inherit his nephew"...


Is the uncle actually inheriting his dead nephew? Or did he inherit his dead nephew's estate?

So what's up??? Ever heard of proof readers?
17:35 March 29, 2010 by mannorun
@Andy from NYC

may be you just land yourself a job :)))
19:23 March 29, 2010 by Prat
It would be nice to have background on why the uncle would have a claim to inherit.

Sweden's inheritance laws seem odd sometimes... children with automatic entitlement, a parent has no possibility (?) to disown disgraceful offspring, etc.

Maybe "Andy from NYC" could provide research and a carefully-written article.
19:46 March 29, 2010 by RoyceD
I wonder how much tax gets taken out?
09:38 March 30, 2010 by salalah
what was the point of hoarding that money?

He could not take it with him anyway. Maybe if he had spent it on healthy food and a nice house in Spain, he would have still lived.
11:23 March 30, 2010 by Nisse of sweden

there is no "death tax" in Sweden. Why do people - pressumably americans - assume Sweden to be such a horrible place?

With compromises on the labour market, no corruption (in an international context) and welfare instead of private solutions, wich weighs heavily on corporations and leaving people out, sweden is really a great place...

I would assume it to be easier to enrich one self in India, but come on! (No offense to any indians reading this, unfair trade - and with it tolls, subsedies and westerners corrupting your officials - have dealt you heavy blows.)
11:56 March 30, 2010 by Curious Expat
Very sad story.
12:23 March 30, 2010 by I Groncour

Normally an uncle has no claim to inherit, but in the case when the person who dies has no children, no brothers or sisters and the parents and at least one grand-parent are dead, an uncle would inherit the estate. I suppose there was some technicality that made the will invalid, otherwise the cousin should have insisted on his rights.

@Nisse of Sweden:

I suppose RoyceD was referring to inheritance tax. It was abolished about 5 years ago, but before that it was 30% if I remember correctly.
13:34 March 30, 2010 by MyFire
@Nisse of Sweden:

No corruption..? I know Sweden has probably the lowest corruption around but re internationally - do you not know Sweden sells arms to South Africa? (Point being that this directly feeds the corruption in S.A never mind the rest of the consequences!)

But I suppose - its just business? (by the way - this also happened during the apartheid years. which also led to the assasination of Olof...)

Many swedish co's like Volvo - were heavily investigated for alleged kickbacks to Saddam Hussiens regime under the U.N's oil for food program.

Point being that Sweden is a wonderful country but we must not be naive into thinking that 'its all good' or squeeky clean. Corruption is everywhere.
14:31 March 30, 2010 by Nisse of sweden

I meant in an international comparison rather than context, with a domestic perspective.

Very few corporations warn visitors not to let customs officials take them aside, having to pay their way out.

Not many swedish ministers and civil servants let people do what they want in return for a bentley...

I am appalled by the horrors perpetrated by swedes on a daily basis!


Hardly something making sweden unique, the 2011 - i could be mistaken here - american estate tax (death tax) will be 55%. They also have a - what i understand to be - quite nasty property tax, probably higher than the one Sweden used to have.

My point is this; you can not, like alot of freedom lovers seem to do, mark Sweden and the swedes for shame due to our welfare state and tax system, it really isn`t all that horrible as you make it out to be.
00:38 April 1, 2010 by alingsaskev
Such a sad story.

Funny how the vultures circle.
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