Court documents say that 46-year-old Tony Hsieh, the former owner of online shoe retailer Zappos, did not have an estate plan when he died in November.
Hsieh died from complications of smoke inhalation nearly two weeks after being rescued from a house fire in New London, Connecticut, on Nov. 18.
Hsieh’s family seeks to protect his assets
The former CEO’s family filed court documents in early December in Nevada, where Hsieh maintained residence, saying they were unaware that a fully executed estate plan existed. They believe he died intestate.
Hsieh’s father and brother asked for an order allowing them to access the decedent’s accounts and protect assets. The request says Hsieh’s mother and his older brother Andrew are listed as next of kin.
The family hopes to access safe deposit boxes to see whether an estate plan exists, talk to his attorneys and other associates and take any other “reasonable acts” to ensure that his estate is appropriately handled.
Hsieh guided Las Vegas-based Zappos for 20 years before selling the company to Amazon in 2009 for $1.2 billion. The Harvard graduate officially retired but remained at Zappos even after selling the company.
Estate plans are essential regardless of wealth
Hsieh’s death illustrates a common issue among American adults, nearly 60% of whom do not have an estate plan. His considerable estate is now likely headed for a complicated, costly and public probate process, leaving his family in limbo.
Talking to an experienced estate planning attorney not only helps maintain privacy but allows you to ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes. It also protects you and your loved ones if you become ill or injured and cannot manage those assets yourself.