One of the great business success stories of the last decade was born from a simple shopping trip for shoes that left the purchaser frustrated. Unable to find the right size and fit, and after receiving indifferent treatment from the salesperson, the shopper decided to take matters into his own hands and launch a revolutionary new way of buying shoes: completely online with a commitment to exceptional customer service.


He pitched his concept to several large investors but was met by a lot of indifference. Who in their right mind would invest millions of dollars in selling shoes online? One investor, Tony Hsieh, was intrigued by the growth potential — who doesn’t wear shoes, right? — and the focus on customer satisfaction. So Hsieh put down $500 million in this new company, and soon found himself as its sole CEO.  In just 10 years, his new company was bought out by Amazon for a whopping $1.2 billion.  Amazon left the day-to-day operations to Hsieh and his team but brought its international reach to the table.


Last November, Hsieh tragically passed away in a house fire, leaving behind an estimated $700 million dollars. To compound the tragedy, Hsieh left no will— only thousands of color-coded Post-Its representing financial commitments. His family asked a court to name his family members as administrators of his estate. However, without a will or trust, the assets go into what is called probate and it is a state law that decides who will receive them.


The only way to avoid probate is to have a will or living trust. The main difference between a will and a living trust is that a will merely distributes your assets upon death, whereas a living trust places your assets and property “in trust” which are managed by a trustee for the benefit of your beneficiaries. You avoid probate altogether with a living trust since your property and assets are already distributed to the trust.


You can write your own will or hire an attorney to draft a will or trust for you. It’s not very expensive and it will give you peace of mind knowing that your estate– no matter how large or small— will be distributed as you wish. Just like life insurance and a funeral plan, it is always best to have a will or trust.