Empire’s first season came to a close with rave reviews with its almost modernized King Lear plot. Despite the abundant drama and crazy plot twists, the foundation of the show revolves primarily around estate planning—or rather the lack of a plan.
Some Spoilers Ahead!
The show’s primary plotline revolves around Lucious Lyon, head of Empire Records, and his diagnosis of terminal ALS. As the article points out, those who have created and now maintain thriving businesses often feel as though they are one and the same, which can prevent thoughtful succession planning. And such is the case for Lucious, whose solution is to pit his three sons against one another in a battle for the right to be his successor. The article points out that while Lucious’ solution is certainly inelegant, many other successful business people fail to plan for their successor, as well. In fact, succession planning can be a long process, taking years to establish the designated successor in good standing and familiarity with all points of the business and requiring clear communication with all involved.
Also contributing to Lucious’ struggles is the fact that his family is a blended one. Blended families are increasingly common, but Lucious’ case certainly adds some additional drama—certainly part of the show’s success. Lucious’ ex-wife, Cookie, is mother to his three sons and recently released from prison after serving 17 years. Lucious’ new fiancée, Anika, has little connection to anyone but Lucious, and resents the connection between her fiancée and his ex-wife. The struggle between the two women is the stuff of soap operas with jealousy, revenge, resentment and even racial issues cropping up.
While many of these conflicts are more than a bit over-the-top, they are often rooted in what many blended families experience: struggles to communicate effectively and feelings of inadequacy. When dealing with succession planning and blended family issues have one thing in common: communication. Work with your advisors to open clear lines of communication between family members, and even work with them to minimize possible conflicts. Being clear about your estate plan can minimize conflict down the road and encourage cooperation, but at minimum, can identify people who cannot be trusted to work well together. At that point, clear drafting of the estate plan is often paramount.
Through all the King Lear plotlines and Machiavellian devices used by the various members of the Lyon family, at the core is a blended family trying to make it work and a business succession plan going wrong. These things are common enough, especially if one does not work with an experienced estate planning attorney. An experienced attorney can help you build your succession plan and communicate your estate plan to those involved.
To facilitate clear communication with loved ones, part of our process includes the Family Care Meeting. We at Family Estate Planning Law Group believe that one of the key components of a successful estate plan is effectively communicating it to those who will carry out the plan. For more information, explore our website and contact us to schedule a consultation today or to find out more about how we take care of families.
Reference: WealthManagement.com (September 22, 2015) “Empire: The Best Estate Planning Drama on TV”