As the world mourned the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, many pondered her estate and wondered about who, in the British Royal family will inherit her castles, land, riches and jewelry.
While America might not have a royal family, we the have the very unroyal family Roys of HBO’s Emmy-winning show Succession. Whether a Roy, a Royal, or a regular Joe, having a solid succession plan is a cornerstone of financial security. Let's take this opportunity to reflect back on media mogul and family patriarch Logan Roy’s warped behaviors and learn some key estate planning cautionary tales.
1. Understand who you are beyond your business and wealth
Succession’s fearsome, aging family head, Logan Roy, who is impeccably played by Brian Cox, has no shortage of character flaws: he’s greedy, manipulative, and routinely throws his children under an array of highspeed buses. But perhaps his biggest failing is a total lack of identity beyond that of being Waystar Royco’s CEO. As a result, he wasn’t ready or prepared to let go and was unable to appoint a suitable successor until his back was well and truly up against a proverbial wall. Could we therefore surmise that if he had diversified his interests, say with some philanthropic endeavours, and taken the time to understand his own personal values, he’d be a less controlling and all-round terrifying patriarch?
2. Be mindful of the complexities of modern families, and update plans accordingly
We’ve watched stepmother Marcia come and go, seen distant relative Greg form an integral part of the Roy enterprise, and we’re surely about to witness Shiv and Tom part ways. Add into the equation Logan’s firstborn – feckless Libertarian Connor, who has a different mother to Kendall, Shiv and Roman and is intent on running for the position of President – and you have a pretty messy and ever-fluxing set of circumstances. When it comes to such complex situations, we can all learn from the Roys and remember why it’s absolutely crucial that estate planning is both extremely thorough, and continually revisited whenever any familial changes occur.
3. Take capacity and competency seriously
The show hangs its hat on the fact that Logan is in denial about his declining health. Despite his age and the fact that the show’s first ever episode opened with Waystar's founder having a haemorrhagic stroke, Logan fails, for two full seasons, to acquiesce and appoint a replacement. Even as he makes progress physically, his actions call his mental capacity into question throughout the first season. Around the same time, Logan proposes changes to a trust that would alter his children’s voting control after his death. In reality, these incidents would have most likely triggered family members to raise reasonable and serious questions around Logan’s ability to make such enormous decisions when he was potentially not of sound mind.
4. Remain open minded, even when people are telling you what you don’t want to hear
One of Succession’s most memorable episodes, “Which Side Are You On?,” featured the infamous vote of no confidence. While it’s argued that what happened – Logan went on to fire half the board – is legally impossible, here lies an important lesson: chances are, you’ve surrounded yourself with certain people for a reason. They are your trusted guidance; they understand you and your businesses infinitely better than most. Yes, you’ll plan for how to achieve what you believe is best, but at times your closest family members and friends will have to confront you with uncomfortable truths.
5. Communication is, frankly, the be all and end all
At the very heart of all of the Roys’ issues is the fact that Logan puts his legacy before his children. But it has to be said that the one thing that Logan has done and continues to do right is that he’s never shied away from his decisions and left someone else to pick up the pieces. Controversial decisions are much worse when they are learned about from someone who didn’t make them – like the other parent or an attorney.
Fortunately, the Roy’s are just a fictional family, but inadequate preparedness is a very real issue. Whatever your estate planning requirements may be and how complex they are, New York Life can help you along the way.
Neither New York Life Insurance Company, nor its agents, provides tax, legal, or accounting advice. Please consult your own tax, legal, or accounting professional before making any decisions.
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