Tony HsiehTony Hsieh is one of the founders of If you’ve done any online shoe shopping, chances are that they’ve shown up in your feed at some point. His ideas on how to run a company were a little different than many founders. A lot of articles have focused on his approach to business. But as the world found out about his unfortunate demise around Thanksgiving, other details have emerged about his life. Sadly, it seems that Hsieh was battling some addition, as far too many of us do. Although not very public in 2020, it seems that the concerns about him were growing this year. Last week, Forbes published an interesting article on his final months and some of the concerns about his lifestyle. One of the more concerning revelations was that “his family discovered that despite more than half a billion in estimated assets, he hadn’t left behind a will.” Think about the scale of that estate: more than $500 million and no will.

Tony Hsieh’s Corporate Legacy

Tony Hsieh leaves behind an innovative corporate legacy. The response from his friends and other leaders give us insight into his legacy,

  • His friend Alfred Lin wrote to him posthumously, “You never saw challenges, you only saw opportunities.”
  • A board member at Zappos, Fred Mossler, said “He was never interested in shoes. Tony’s journey was to improve the human condition.”
  • The journalist Paul Bradley Carr noted, “I think Tony saw happiness as a problem he was trying to solve, an algorithm he was trying to crack.”

Tony himself told Forbes to “Chase the vision. The money and profits will come.”

Tony Hsieh and his Personal Assets

Beyond his legacy in the corporate world, Hsieh apparently left behind more than half a billion dollars. But if the Forbes article is correct, he didn’t leave behind a will. It was Diego Maradona a couple of weeks ago, now it’s Tony Hsieh. The list of celebrities without any estate planning continues to grow. And in Hsieh’s case, he is a prime example of the importance of estate planning for founders and leaders of businesses.

It’s one of the ironies of successful business people. Many of them have spent years working on their businesses. They have had a laser focus on what it takes to create and preserve their business. But at home, in their personal life, they have no plan in place. I’ve encountered many estates where the business owner didn’t even put beneficiaries on their life insurance policy, didn’t have a will, and didn’t have any real planning to speak of. They’ve left their family to sort out the probate process. And in the case of more “famous” business leaders, they’ve created a public record that their competitors and critics can now review in the courthouse record room.

No matter if you have half a billion dollars or not, if you’re leading a business, you also need to have an estate plan in place. The law has no emotional attachments or vested interest in making sure your assets get divided as you wished. That’s the role of your estate plan, to make sure your family is protected.

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Next Steps

Hopefully, if you are a founder or other executive of a business, you know that you need a will. If you don’t have a will yet, or if you have one that you may need to update, call my office to set up a Legal Strategy Session and we can review the best options for you – (877) AMAYERS.

Andrew Ayers
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I work with business and estate planning clients to craft legal solutions to protect their legacies.
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