What happens if you die without a NY estate attorney drafted will? Estate of Tony Hsieh

Tony Hsieh created a $900 million dollar empire founded on brilliance, leadership, the ability to foretell future trends in retail, hard work, generosity and integrity.  Tony Hsieh singlehandedly disposed of the conventional corporate work environment reshaping Silicon Valley into a bastion of innovation in an  egalitarian open work space that became synonymous with technology and innovation. The son of two Taiwanese immigrants living in San Francisco Hsieh would make his way to Harvard where he graduated in 1995 with a degree in computer science.  After graduation, like many other successful entrepreneurs, Hsieh began working for a corporation where he learned his craft from the ground up.  However, unlike conventional business people Hsieh grew to loath the monotonous drudgery that conventional corporate America offered. This spurred Hsieh to leave his corporate position to build out an advertising and retail network for the internet space years before Google would ever enter the landscape.  

Hsieh would go on to sell that business to Microsoft in 1998 for $265 million dollars.  It would not be long before Hsieh founded his next successful business in 1999.  In 1999, the next visionary business Tony Hsieh would create was an online platform that sold shoes over the internet called, Zappos.  Unlike most of Hsieh’s peers at the time, Tony Hsieh saw the incredible potential for retail growth in the online space.  It turns out Hsieh would be proven right again as Zappos would be acquired by Amazon in 2009 for the sum of $1.2 billion dollars.

Hsieh’s unconventional leadership style fostering both originality and innovation, while enshrouding the sharing of ideas would come to define his greatness at Zappos for the following decade where Hsieh remained as CEO at the request of Amazon. 

Hseih’s leadership qualities were not the only attributes that defined him among his peers as Hsieh was also well known for his reputation as a generous philanthropist. Hsieh’s leadership and entrepreneurial talent were only surpassed by his generosity.  

Tragically this incredible life was cut short in a harrowing fire which claimed Tony Hsieh’s life on November 27, 2020.   To make matters worse it appears the 46 year old had not planned his estate prior to his untimely passing.  Not having been married or having children, there is little doubt the 46 year old risk taker would have wanted a sizable portion of his estate to go to causes he believed in.

What happens now?

Unfortunately, as Tony Hsieh’s next of kin, Tony’s parents have the painful task of picking up the pieces of this remarkable person’s estate.  Tony’s father recently hired an estate lawyer  to file for letters of Administration of his son’s estate.  As a resident of Nevada, unlike New York, Hsieh’s estate will not incur any state estate tax liability as the State of Nevada does not have a state estate tax.  However as any NY estate lawyer will tell you, any and all NY estates in excess of $5,850,000 dollars may be subject  to NYS estate tax liability at the rate of 16% as of the date of this article. As of January 1, 2021, your NY estate lawyer will also tell you that the NYS estate tax exemption increases to $5,930,000.00 per individual.  This means with the help of your NY estate lawyer a married couple is able to pass $11,860,000 outside any and all NYS estate liability this upcoming year in 2021 by utilizing some simple NY estate planning strategies.  Nevertheless, every successful NY estate plan begins with having your NY estate lawyer draft and execute your NY will. 

However, because Tony Hsieh failed to draft a will or create any estate plan prior to his death this estate shall be subject to the 40% estate tax liability at the federal level. As such, because Tony Hsieh failed to sit down with a probate attorney to create a testamentary strategy to minimize his federal estate tax exposure through either trust formation, charitable contributions and/or gift giving throughout his lifetime, the federal government will claim a nearly $400 million dollar windfall from this estate.

There is no doubt that this was not Tony Hsieh’s intended result.  While the 46 year old Hsieh had no way of predicting his untimely passing which was nothing less than tragic, we all have a responsibility to come to terms with our mortality as some point.  Having your NY estate lawyer draft your simple will is almost always the best place to begin protecting your legacy.   While most New Yorkers do not have NY estates remotely as large as Hsieh, having your NY estate lawyer draft your NY will is always sound advice.  In your NY will you not only direct the beneficiaries of your NY estate, but you are also afforded the ability to designate your executor who will administer your NY estate after you are gone.  This ensures the seamless transfer of your NY estate when the time comes.

If you or a family are thinking about drafting their NY will feel free to call the NYC will contest lawyers at The Law Offices of Jason W. Stern & Associates for a free consultation at (718) 261-2444. Our NYC estate lawyers have more than 50 years of combined NY estate law experience drafting and probating the wills for families like yours in the counties of Queens, New York, Kings, Bronx, Westchester, Rockland, Nassau, Orange, Richmond and Dutchess.

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