Zappos founder Tony Hsieh did not quite make “billionaire” status. However, he was close, selling several companies for an $800 million personal payday. Wealth Advisor’s recent article titled “Even Mega-Millionaires Die With No Will: Tony Hsieh Family Steps Up” explains that when leaving that much cash behind, heirs need only invest in Treasury Bonds to be set for life.
However, when you die on a reported girlfriend’s property at age 46, far from home, and without a will, the estate becomes much more complicated than it needs to be.
Hsieh sold his first startup company in 1998 and moved into the world of top-tier technology incubators, eventually starting the shoe retailer Zappos, which he sold to Amazon in 2009. He continued to manage Zappos until he stepped down this summer. While Hsieh had no need to work financially, he liked the structure.
However, he also enjoyed pushing his health to the limit, experimenting with extreme diets, holding his breath, and literally playing with fire. Hsieh was asphyxiated in a Connecticut shed when it caught fire. He was rushed to the hospital, where he died.
Hsieh seemed untethered, but it was his life and his money. However, now that he’s gone, his fortune is an issue. He did not have a wife or children, so his scattered assets need to be accounted for and then dispersed. His father and brother have volunteered to sort everything out. Nevertheless, it is going to take time and money to find all the money and there are no guarantees. Things frequently fall through the cracks.
The tax situation is also a question, as with an $800 million estate, the IRS will see a significant payday.
Hsieh didn’t have a will or a trust, so probate is a concern. With a Nevada base of operations, a Utah residence, and presumptive California executors, probate can get messy in a second.
The lesson here is clear: we all need an estate plan.
That’s how we can add multigenerational value and keep family fortunes growing, instead of dwindling to nothing. Ask an experienced estate planning attorney about a comprehensive estate plan.
Reference: Wealth Advisor (Dec. 7, 2020) “Even Mega-Millionaires Die With No Will: Tony Hsieh Family Steps Up”