Tony Hseih died without a will in 2020, leaving behind an estate estimated to be worth hundreds of millions. The entrepreneur, most famous for leading Zappos, was known for his progressive ideas about happiness in the workplace, as well as for his wealth of ideas—and commitments of time and money to pursue them. Sadly, his assets remain tied up in probate litigation.
Claims and Public Process?
Tony Hseih’s story reminds us that estate lawyers are right to constantly encourage us to organize our affairs during our lifetimes. No matter the scope of our assets, failure to plan for them has consequences for our families, friends and associates—as well as for our reputations and dreams. When Hseih died intestate (without a will) in 2020, 8NewsNow published this prediction: “It’s surprising, and then it’s not, because we see it happening all the time,” Las Vegas-based estate attorney Shane Jasmine Young said about not having a will or revocable living trust, which would have shielded the process from the public. “I’m sure he didn’t realize that this is probably the result, or that this would be the result, of not having any planning, but it is, unfortunately, for his family and other people that were in his life…All of these people are going to come out of the woodwork and say, ‘Oh, Tony promised me this, I’ve got this contract, we had this agreement,’” Young said. “It’s already started to snowball.”
Indeed, a year after Hsieh’s tragic death in a Connecticut house fire, the Wall Street Journal reports that the probating of his estate will continue to be tangled up in knots, some rooted in financial claims “based on deals scribbled on sticky notes” and found in his Park City Utah Mansion.
Court Appointed Administrators?
Since Hsieh died without a will (and the designation of an executor), a judge, following Nevada probate law, appointed his father and brother as special administrators of his estate. As claims against the estate have poured in, Hseih’s family has been working to wrangle tax bills and make decisions about the nearly 100 properties he had been buying in his quest to reimagine downtown Las Vegas. Law Professors sum up: The fact that Hsieh died intestate and with thousands of sticky notes with messages without context has made the court battle over his estate particularly difficult. Hsieh’s family and friends are arguing over “who had Mr. Hsieh’s best interest at heart, and who was out to use him for his wealth and connections.”
Note that during probate, courts have the discretion to require fiduciary bonds, and frequently do so in the face of evidence indicating complexity and conflict related to the affairs of estate. An administrator bond is one type of fiduciary bond that can be requested to protect the interests of the estate and its beneficiaries in accordance with state law. As a leading national provider of all types of fiduciary bonds, Colonial Surety helps court appointed administrators in every state quickly and affordably obtain their bonds—digitally. The steps to obtaining any bond with Colonial are easy—get a quote online, fill out the information, and enter a payment method. Print or e-file the bond from anywhere—even while at court. Obtain an Administrator Bond Here.
Good To Know
Although inheritance litigation in cases like the Hseih estate can become complex, it’s important to remember that the probate process is not inherently bad. Flick Law Group explains that probate can be simply understood as “the court-supervised process for distributing a deceased person’s money and property….” Ordinarily, when a will has been made, the executor initiates the probate process by filing it—and the death certificate—in court. Many states now offer expedited probate processes so that absent conflict or complexity, the affairs of the deceased can be efficiently resolved. When there is no will, probate courts follow the state laws of intestacy. Probate Stars explain:
“When someone dies intestate, state law controls the distribution of their estate assets. Hsieh was a resident of Nevada when he died. Nevada law therefore controls the distribution of the assets in Tony Hsieh’s intestate estate. According to Nevada’s intestate succession laws, when someone dies without a spouse or children, the decedent’s parents inherit the estate.”
News for Inheritance Litigation Lawyers
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