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The founder of internet shoe retailer Zappos and the company’s former CEO until he retired from that role in August 2020, Tony Hseith, died recently from smoke inhalation in his Connecticut home. The 46-year-old entrepreneur reportedly died without a Will.
Hseith’s father and brother filed paperwork with the probate court in Las Vegas asking to be appointed as special administrators to handle his estate, stating in their filing that they are unaware of the existence of a valid Will. As Hseith was unmarried and did not have descendants, his parents and siblings are his next of kin. While this means they stand to inherit assets that pass through his estate, it also means there could be a lengthy delay in getting to that point, not to mention the attorneys’ fees, court costs, potential legal challenges, and publicity that all come with probate court administration.
Hseith also reportedly lived with and had purchased a home in Connecticut for $1.3 million in August for his girlfriend, cellist Rachael Brown. It is unclear at this point how the home or Hseith’s other assets were titled. If he and Brown owned the home as joint tenants with rights of survivorship, she will inherit the property without it having to go through probate. If, however, he was the sole owner of the property, this could create potential friction and set the stage for a contested probate.
This type of story is, unfortunately, not uncommon. Celebrities and wealthy entrepreneurs are just like “regular” people when it comes to planning – or failing to plan – for what will happen to their estates when they die. An otherwise-healthy 46-year-old often doesn’t think about accidental death. But, as occurred here, it can – and does – happen.
The Estate Planning & Legacy Law Center helps people plan for the unexpected. To begin or to update your estate plan, contact us today!