It is easy to assume that the rich and famous are immune to financial calamity and yet where planning for the future is concerned, this is hardly true. Countless examples of the super-wealthy losing hundreds of millions to poor (or non-existent) estate plans exist and, in many cases, their monetary losses represent only a sliver of the issue. When estate planning goes awry, it is relationships between family and loved ones that suffer the most. A poorly planned estate creates a web of contention that even the closest families can struggle to navigate. The following examples show just how bad it can get.

Tony Hsieh, founder of Zappos
Tony Hsieh was a magnetic presence in the world of online entrepreneurship. At age 23, Hsieh co-founded LinkExchange, a popular internet advertising cooperative that Microsoft quickly purchased for $265 million. Many folks would take their cut of this deal and live the rest of their lives in peace but not Hsieh. Instead, the ambitious Harvard grad went bigger and shortly after the sale signed on as CEO of online shoe retailer Zappos. Under his guidance, the company went from producing $1.6 million in sales in 2000 to $1 billion in 2009. Amazon took notice and in that same year bought Zappos for a reported $1.2 billion.

Hsieh would retain his position as Zappos CEO but proceed to branch out to other projects. Almost single-handedly, he revived neglected neighborhoods in downtown Las Vegas, provided friends with the capital needed to pursue their dreams, and accrued a following as one of the happiest people in global finance.

Then, on November 18, 2020, Hsieh was fatally injured in a house fire in London, Connecticut, and died shortly thereafter. Upon his passing, it was discovered that the former Zappos CEO left no estate plan and nothing but hundreds of sticky notes detailing his intended planning for the future.

Friends and family swarmed in hoping to claim a piece of his estimated $840 million fortune. Many went to court insisting they were owed millions in unfulfilled deals, incomplete contracts, and so on. What had been a close network of loved ones and confidants devolved into a greedy mob that need not have formed had Hsieh organized his affairs.

In 2022, Hsieh’s family continues to fight claims and has yet to gain peace with his passing. Despite his enormous fortune and tireless celebration of happiness, Hsieh left little but misery in his wake.

Prince, Aretha Franklin, Steve McNair, and Chadwick Boseman
As detailed in an earlier article on this blog, all of the above also died without a robust estate plan and left their families with an agonizing legal tangle to endure. Had each filed simple documents such as a basic will, durable power of attorney, and revocable trust, their loved ones could be living securely and dedicating their emotional resources to processing their loss instead of fighting competing claims in court.

An experienced estate planning attorney makes instituting an estate plan much easier than it may seem. Knowing which vehicles are right for your plan: a will, durable power of attorney, healthcare directive, revocable trust, and how they should be constructed can seem overwhelming. Your attorney’s role is to make recommendations and tailor the details of your plan based on what is important to you. All that is required on your part is some careful thought and consideration. The rest of the details will be handled by your attorney.

To learn more about avoiding family tragedy and protecting your life’s work, do not hesitate to reach out to the Estate Planning Law Group of Georgia either by calling 770-822-2723 or using the contact form on our website.


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