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‘Succession’ drama delivers lessons on costly estate planning blunders

by Legacy Plan
April 20, 2023

“Succession” is a critically acclaimed television drama series that premiered on HBO in 2018. The show revolves around the lives of the dysfunctional Roy family, who are the owners of a global media and entertainment conglomerate called Waystar Royco. The patriarch of the family, Logan Roy, is a powerful and ruthless businessman who built the company from the ground up.

The central theme of the show is power and the struggle for control within the Roy family and Waystar Royco. The Roy family members are constantly vying for their father's approval and control of the company, which leads to numerous conflicts and power struggles. The show explores the lengths that individuals will go to gain power and the moral compromises they make along the way.

The show also examines the complex relationships within the Roy family, including their personal and professional lives. It delves into their family history, secrets and the impact of their past actions on their current relationships.

Another important theme in the show is the corrupting influence of wealth, power and vying for a future inheritance. The Roy family is wealthy beyond measure, and the show portrays the effects of that wealth on their personal lives and relationships. The show also critiques the broader social and political systems that allow such wealth and power to exist.

Overall, “Succession” is a complex and nuanced examination of power, family and wealth. It is a thought-provoking exploration of the human condition and the dark side of ambition.

The mix of conflicting interests among family members created by power and wealth also provides many valuable lessons in estate planning that are worth considering.

Let’s consider the five key estate planning lessons – start estate planning early, involve your family, consider tax implications, hire professionals and update your plan regularly – that “Succession” provides:

Start estate planning early

The patriarch of the family, Logan Roy, starts estate planning in his later years when he realizes his mortality. He faces numerous legal and family conflicts due to poor estate planning. Therefore, it’s important to start planning your estate early to avoid potential conflicts.

One of the main legal conflicts that arises from Logan’s poor estate planning is the issue of his succession plan for the company. Logan has not designated a clear successor, which leads to infighting and power struggles among his children, who all have their own ambitions and agendas. This not only leads to tension and conflict within the family but also threatens the stability and success of the company.

Another legal issue that arises from Logan’s poor estate planning is the question of his mental capacity and whether he is fit to continue running the company. This becomes a major point of contention between Logan and his family members, particularly his son Kendall, who becomes increasingly concerned about his father's ability to lead.

On the family front, Logan’s poor estate planning causes tension and conflict between his children. As they all jockey for position to take over the company, they become more competitive and less cooperative, leading to betrayals, backstabbing and emotional turmoil. Additionally, the lack of clarity around Logan’s wishes for his estate and his assets leads to fights over inheritance and a lack of trust between family members.

Involve your family

Family integrating their succession plan into their estate plan

In “Succession,” the Roy family members were often left out of the loop when it came to their inheritance. This created a sense of distrust and disunity among them. Therefore, it’s crucial to involve your family in the estate planning process, especially when it comes to making important decisions.

Estate planning is a crucial process that involves making important decisions about the management and distribution of one’s assets and property after death or during incapacitation. While it is a personal and private matter, involving family members in estate planning decisions is important for several reasons.

Involving family members in estate planning decisions helps ensure that one’s wishes are properly understood and followed. When family members are aware of the plans and decisions being made, they can provide input, ask questions and offer suggestions that can help clarify the individual’s intentions and avoid any potential misunderstandings or conflicts in the future.

Involving family members in estate planning decisions also can help foster trust and transparency within the family. When family members are kept in the loop and included in decision making, it can help alleviate any concerns or doubts they may have about the fairness of the estate plan. This, in turn, can help prevent family members from feeling excluded or resentful and may ultimately lead to a more harmonious family dynamic.

When family members are engaged in the estate planning process, it can help ensure that the estate plan is tailored to the unique needs and circumstances of the family. Each family has its own unique set of circumstances, including relationships, financial situations and personal preferences. Involving family members in decision making can help ensure that the estate plan reflects these unique circumstances and addresses any specific concerns or needs that may arise.

Consider tax implications

Estate taxes can take a significant portion of your assets if you're not careful. The Roy family, for example, had to pay a hefty estate tax bill, which could have been reduced if they had taken steps to minimize the tax liability. It’s essential to consider the tax implications when planning your estate.

One way the Roy family could have avoided paying a large estate tax bill is to make gifts to family members during one's lifetime. Under U.S. tax law, individuals can give up to $17,000 (as of 2023) each year to an unlimited number of people without incurring any gift tax liability. By gifting assets or cash to family members, individuals can reduce the value of their estate, thereby reducing their potential estate tax liability.

Another way to minimize estate tax liability is to establish an irrevocable trust. Irrevocable trusts can be used to transfer assets to beneficiaries while minimizing estate tax liability. By placing assets in an irrevocable trust, individuals can avoid having those assets included in their taxable estate, thereby reducing the overall value of the estate and potentially lowering the estate tax bill.

Life insurance is another method to minimize the impact of estate taxes. Individuals can use life insurance to provide for their beneficiaries while reducing their taxable estate.

Proper estate planning also can include transferring assets to a charitable organization. Charitable gifts can be an effective way to reduce estate tax liability while also supporting a cause that is important to the individual.

The lesson to learn from the Roy family in “Succession” is that they could have avoided an estate tax nightmare by implementing various strategies, including making gifts during their lifetime, establishing an irrevocable trust, utilizing life insurance and making charitable donations. Proper estate planning can help minimize estate tax liability and ensure that assets are distributed in accordance with one’s wishes while providing for loved ones and charitable causes.

Hire professionals

Estate planning is a complex process that requires the expertise of legal, financial and tax professionals. In “Succession,” Logan Roy relied on his personal attorney for all his estate planning needs. It provides a valuable lesson on why it’s important to work with a team of professionals who can provide comprehensive advice and guidance.

One key problem is that Logan's attorney fails to take the time to fully understand Logan’s personal and business affairs. Estate planning is a complex process that involves not just a person’s assets and properties but also their personal relationships, financial situation and other unique circumstances. A good estate planning attorney should take the time to fully understand all these factors in order to provide effective guidance. However in “Succession,” Logan’s attorney appears to have a limited understanding of Logan’s personal and business affairs, which results in a poorly crafted estate plan.

Another issue: Logan's attorney does not communicate effectively with Logan or his family members. Effective communication is essential in estate planning to ensure that everyone involved understands the plan and their roles in it. But in “Succession,” Logan’s attorney fails to communicate the details of the estate plan to Logan or his family members, which leads to confusion, misunderstandings and conflicts.

Also, Logan’s attorney appears to prioritize his own interests over those of his client. Estate planning attorneys have a fiduciary duty to act in their client’s best interests. Yet in “Succession,” Logan’s attorney appears to be more concerned with protecting his own interests and maintaining his relationship with Logan than providing effective guidance.

Update your plan regularly

As your life circumstances change, your estate plan should be updated accordingly. In “Succession,” Logan Roy’s estate plan is not adequately updated, which leads to conflicts and legal issues after his death. There are several reasons why Logan’s plan was not updated.

Logan may have been resistant to making changes to his estate plan. Estate planning can be a difficult and emotional process, and some individuals may be reluctant to make changes to their plan, especially if they believe that their plan is already comprehensive and effective. Logan may have felt that his estate plan was already adequate and saw no reason to update it.

Like many people, Logan may not have been aware of the need to update his estate plan. Estate planning is an ongoing process, and changes in personal circumstances, business affairs and tax laws can all impact the effectiveness of an estate plan. Logan may not have been aware of these changes or may have been reluctant to revisit his estate plan.

Logan also may not have had an effective system in place to regularly review and update his estate plan. Estate planning is not a one-time event, but rather an ongoing process that requires regular review and updates.

“Succession” offers many valuable lessons on estate planning and succession planning. By learning from the show’s mistakes and successes, you can develop a sound estate plan that protects your assets, minimizes tax liability and maintains family harmony.

How do I create an estate plan?

There are numerous options and scenarios to consider when developing an estate plan that protects your legacy and achieves your objectives, and important decisions should be made with the advice of qualified lawyers and financial experts. Membership with Legacy Assurance Plan provides members with valuable resources and guidance to develop comprehensive estate plans that take life's contingencies into consideration and leave a positive impact for generations to come. Legacy Assurance Plan members also receive peace of mind that a team of trusted, experienced professionals will assist them in developing legal, financial and tax strategies that will meet their needs today and for years to come through periodic reviews.

This article is published by Legacy Assurance Plan and is intended for general informational purposes only. Some information may not apply to your situation. It does not, nor is it intended, to constitute legal advice. You should consult with an attorney regarding any specific questions about probate, living probate or other estate planning matters. Legacy Assurance Plan is an estate planning services company and is not a lawyer or law firm and is not engaged in the practice of law. For more information about this and other estate planning matters visit our website at

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