HBO’s Succession recently wrapped up its third season. The popular drama depicts the dysfunctional Roy family and their multi-billion dollar Waystar Royco media conglomerate. Patriarch Logan Roy is at constant odds with his four children, Connor, Kendall, Shiv, and Roman, over the future of Waystar Royco and the transition of power and leadership. While Succession is all about opulence, intrigue, and betrayal, it also provides some lessons about the importance of proper estate and business planning. Let’s take a look.
- Modern families are complex, and include more than just blood relatives. The main players in Succession are not just Logan and his children. The Roy family also includes Logan’s previous wives, his older brother, his current wife Marcia (the kids’ step-mom), cousin Greg, Shiv’s husband Tom, and other key business associates who have worked with Logan for decades. The term “family” has expanded beyond the traditional, nuclear family. As with the Roys, an estate plan should take into account the complexities of a modern family and address roles such as former spouses, children from different marriages or out of wedlock, adoptions, and even our “chosen” family members. It’s also important to be mindful about the relationships between the members of our modern, blended families.
- Family fights can be irrational and emotional. Much of Succession revolves around the fights between Logan and his children, and between the Roy children themselves. Connor, Kendall, Shiv, and Roman constantly argue about who should take over the family business, who should benefit from their family trust, and who should be free to pursue their own interests. But the odd part is that they don’t usually explain the motivations behind those destires – they just want what they want. In estate planning, family fights can often seem irrational and based heavily in emotion. An item or role that seemed otherwise insignificant the day before can lead to rifts between the family. A thorough and well-thought-out estate plan can help prevent such family fights, or at least communicate the reasoning behind a transition of power or the gifting of a sentimental item. Even on Succession, the Roy children seem less combative when they know what’s coming, and why.
- Good communication is key. One of the central issues in Succession is that Logan Roy puts his legacy before his children, and he refuses to be open with his kids about his decision making. The Roy children usually learn about their father’s latest business deals through secondary characters, like office assistants and company board members. This lack of communication has spiraled the Roy family, their extended family, and the web of business associates into constant chaos. The best way to avoid family fights and to get ahead of an estate conflict is to be as open with your communication as possible. Family members and close friends may be surprised or event hurt by your decisions, but the fallout is different when the person explains their reasoning. You need to address what you want to accomplish with your estate plan, and why. Be clear with your intentions.
- Consider capacity and competency. The very first scene of Succession, season one, episode one, is CEO Logan Roy getting confused in his own home. Shortly thereafter, he is holding court in his office, shouting at employees and making demands of his business associates. The show constantly presents contrasting images of Logan the fiery CEO and Logan the aging patriarch, and the Roy children are left wondering whether Logan’s decision making is based on his business prowess or if it’s diminished because of his old age. Capacity and competency are issues to consider in every estate plan. You want to address your estate and legacy now, before health or emergency issues arise that prevent you from making careful, well-informed decisions. Succession also reminds us about the importance of having a Power of Attorney and Medical Decisionmaker in place, in case an emergency does arise. (It’s still unclear whether step-mother Marcia had the legal authority to take over Logan’s health decisions and the Waystar Royco operations when Logan fell ill in season one).
- Know when to bring in the professionals. In Succession, Logan Roy and his four children cannot work together and rarely get along. The malfunctioning parent-child relationships could ultimately lead to the failure of Waystar Royco. Part of the problem is that the family does not have a consistent team of professionals who take into account their best interests and provide sound legal advice. An estate planning attorney, or team of attorneys, can help communicate objectives, share their legal expertise, and help protect the estate and family legacy. They can help create an estate plan that aligns everyones’ visions and sets the next generation up for success.
Have Questions About Your Estate Plan? Contact Brian M. Douglas & Associates
The Roy family is a fictional family, however, Succession presents some very real estate planning issues. It shows us what not to do, and illustrates the importance of being prepared and having a proper plan in place. If you have questions about your own estate plan, or would like to setup an estate planning consultation, please reach out to us at (770) 933-9009 or via our online contact form. We’d be happy to help.