Most of us know Tony Hsieh for his groundbreaking company, Zappos. And, we all received the news in Nov. 2020 of his sudden passing, right before his 48th birthday. Though, it came as a shock to everyone that he passed without an estate plan of any kind.
A life well lived
For aspiring business owners and C-level executives, Mr. Hsieh’s life is one to emulate. He reinvented being an employee- and customer-centric company. The goal was to delight everyone that was a part of the company and be the best customer service experience a customer had ever had. Indeed, in many of his interviews, he would talk about his company not a shoe company, but a customer service company. This happy customer and happy employee mentality skyrocketed Zappos into an internet behemoth that was acquired by Amazon because it could not compete with Mr. Hsieh’s business model.
No estate plan
Mr. Hsieh’s estate is estimated to be well over $500 million with interest in multiple companies and other business endeavors, properties, warehouses, real estate, cash, stocks, etc. Though, without an estate plan, all of this wealth must go through the probate process, and endure years, if not decades of litigation over what other perceive they were owed by the late business leader.
Since there was not an estate plan, the probate judge left the administration to Mr. Hsieh’s brother and father. This means they are responsible for settling the estate. The way an estate is settled, all debts must be accounted for and extinguished, and then the remaining estate paid out to all legal heirs. This can be a Herculean endeavor for a normal estate, but for one valued over $500 million, his family will likely be fighting in probate court for years.
The family is currently battling at least 10 individuals and corporations in several proceedings. These cases alone represent nearly 25% of the estate at $130 million. There is even a $30 million lawsuit over a handwritten post-it note employment “contract.”
Dying without an estate plan
If there is anything our Decatur, Texas, readers can learn from what the Hsieh family is now enduring, it is that no one should die without an estate plan, especially those with sizable estates. No one want to leave years, or decades of heartache and work for their family, especially when the estate is large enough to create generational wealth.