**This article may contain spoilers**
Succession is a television drama on HBO in which family members jockey for position of the next CEO of Waystar Royco. The current CEO is Logan Roy, a foul-mouthed leader with 4 children. His 4 children are Connor, Kendall, Roman, and Shiv and they each have a complicated and oftentimes tumultuous relationship with their father. All throughout the show Logan Roy manipulates his children with love and other means under the guise of naming a particular child as the next CEO upon his death. Throughout the series, all 4 children try to prove why they would make the best CEO. The problem is that Logan Roy did not name a CEO while he was living because he wanted to continue to use that as leverage to get his children to continue to do his bidding. He continued to serve as CEO until his unexpected death. Now the question becomes who takes over as CEO now that Logan Roy has died?
The estate planning drama begins to unfold in Season 4. First, Logan Roy’s Executor finds a piece of paper which appears to be a handwritten note that Logan Roy named his eldest son Kendall as CEO. When the Executor finds this piece of paper, instantly the wheels in his head start spinning with issues. Should the note get lost? Should he not tell Logan’s children? Is the note legally binding? Ultimately the Executor decides to gather all the children to show them the note. Each child looks at the note from the lens that supports their case the most for the CEO position. Kendall clearly thinks he is the next CEO – it has his name after all. He even cites the fact that his name is underlined on the piece of paper. Shiv on the other hand looks at the handwritten note and concedes that his name was not underlined, but crossed out. Finally, on that handwritten note is another name, cousin Greg. There is no context and it’s written in pencil. All of the Roy children instantly disregard Greg as being CEO.
Is the note real and legally binding? The answer to that question is that there is not a good answer. Legally, it is easy to say that the note is not legally binding. However, a Last Will is supposed to be what the decedent intended. Is the note evidence of Logan Roy’s intent? Maybe. But what intent? His intent that he was never really certain as to the next CEO? That he wanted Kendall as CEO or Greg? Is it an underlined name or a crossed out name? This handwritten note is the foundation for the remaining issues in the show. Practically speaking, each child tries to use it to their advantage which is understandable because of how ambiguous the note is. In a real world situation this would certainly wind up in litigation since Logan Roy did not plan properly. If Logan Roy wanted to avoid this mess, what could he have done differently?
Ironically, Logan Roy should have read the title of the show and completed business “Succession” planning. He should have named a CEO to take over upon his death using estate planning tools such as a Trust, Will, and other estate planning documents. Since he failed to do so, there was unnecessary turmoil, stress, and family disputes upon his death – which may have been what he wanted after all.