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Immigrant wills most of life savings to U.S. Treasury

Published Aug. 27, 2005

Most people do whatever they can to keep their money away from the Internal Revenue Service. Not so with Maria Woods, a German immigrant with a strong passion for her adopted country.

When Woods died in September at age 80, she left 70 percent of her estate to the U.S. Treasury as a way of showing her gratitude to the nation that took her in. The total wasn't huge _ in her final years, medical costs had shrunk the one-time $500,000 estate to about $98,000.

"When she told me she was going to leave her money to the IRS, I thought "Oh, God,' " said longtime friend Pat Dooley.

Dooley's family hired Woods as a nanny when they were stationed in Europe during World War II, then sponsored her immigration to the United States in 1959. She became a citizen 11 years later.

Woods worked as a nanny for rich families, who sometimes visited Florida, where she vowed to live. She married a Chicago chauffeur, George Woods, who died in the 1970s.

Woods was a feisty woman who owned five apartments in West Palm Beach, which she managed herself, said her attorney, Joseph Karp. Karp was first hired to evict one of her tenants, but went on to manage her affairs."She told me this country has given her everything she has and she wanted to give some back," he said.