At this point, most have heard of the passing of Tony Hsieh, the founder of internet juggernaut, Zappos. He revolutionized how businesses operate and became the face for Las Vegas’ revitalization efforts. However, unfortunately, he died without an estate plan, and as a result, there has been countless claims against Mr. Hsieh’s estate.
Mr. Hsieh’s estate is estimated to be at least, if not more than, $523 million. To die with this amount of wealth without an estate plan is largely unheard of and unprecedented. This is because, for people at that level of wealth, they are dealing with financial professionals frequently, and an estate plan is usually brought up by someone, whether it is a broker, financial analysist, attorney, CPA, etc. Typically, they have an estate plan that avoids probate entirely, but since Mr. Hsieh’s died without one, the litigation associated with winding down his affairs has been a masterclass in why everyone needs an estate plan.
Since he died without a will, trust or any estate plan, the probate judge appointed his brother and father as estate administrators. It is their duty to gather all of his assets to pay off debts, and then follow state intestate law to pay out the remaining assets to his heirs.
To date, there are already multiple cases filed by 10 people and companies. In total, these claims are for over $130 million. That is about a fourth of the estate. Though, the largest claim is from his former personal assistant and friend, Jennifer “Mimi” Pham, who is claiming she is owned more than $90 million, along with a laundry list of items that are stored in Mr. Hsieh’s warehouse.
There is a more dubious claim from Mark Evensvold that claims that he is owed about $30 million based on a handwritten post-it note. The “contract,” as Mr. Evensvold calls it, reported promised him a $450,000 annual salary, a 20% signing bonus and an interest in Nacho Daddy, one of Mr. Hsieh’s holdings.
Norcross, Georgia, residents, may wonder what they can learn from the Hsieh probate litigation saga. Simply put, it is that everyone should have an estate plan, especially for those with high-value estates.