What 'Succession' season 3 can teach you about money

The Roy family might be filthy rich, but there are still plenty of personal finance lessons you can learn from their drama.

adam-morgan

By

Adam Morgan

Adam Morgan

Editorial Director, News and Research

Adam Morgan is an editorial director at Policygenius who leads the news and research teams. Previously, he led editorial teams across multiple brands at Red Ventures — including Bankrate, The Simple Dollar, NextAdvisor, Million Mile Secrets, and many others.

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The third season of HBO's 'Succession' has been another illuminating look at the lives of ultra-high-net-worth individuals — the term investment banks use for people with more than $30 million in investable assets. At last count, there are only 521,653 UHNWIs in the world (around 0.0001% of the population), and more of them live in the United States than anywhere else. [1] The Roy family faces all kinds of financial issues you'll never have to worry about unless you're a UHNWI, but there are still plenty of things you can learn from their Shakespearean drama about your own personal finances.

You can put Greenpeace in your will

In "Retired Janitors of Idaho," cousin Greg's grandfather Ewan decides to donate all $250 million of Greg’s inheritance to Greenpeace. This episode led to a surge in real-life interest in putting Greenpeace in wills, so much so that Greenpeace released a statement and a tongue-in-cheek tweet.

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You can in fact donate to a charity in your will, including Greenpeace. All you have to do is name the organization as a beneficiary, just like you would with a person. If you make a charitable bequest like this, you can also explain how you’d like your money or assets to be used by the organization you’re donating to. However, if you’d rather support the charity over a longer period of time instead of just in your will, you could open a charitable trust.

You can contest a family member's will

If your grandfather suddenly decides to remove you from his will, like Greg’s does after he spurns Ewan’s lawyer for the Waystar Royco legal team, you do have the option of contesting a will. If you feel you were wrongly excluded from someone’s will, you can hire a probate lawyer to help you challenge the terms of the will in probate court.

However, most contentions aren’t successful. “Greg could certainly try to contest Ewan’s will, but he wouldn’t have much luck,” says Elissa Suh, our estate planning expert at Policygenius. “Greg would need to prove the will was invalid for some reason, that there’s something wrong with the way it was created or the conditions under which the person created it,” she says. “He’d also have grounds for a contest if he could prove that someone had undue influence on his grandpa and persuaded him to write him out of his will, but Ewan seems pretty with it and definitely not the type of person to fall prey to someone’s scheming.”

You can cash out your stock options

In “Too Much Birthday,” Logan offers to buy out Kendall’s shares in Waystar Royco for $2 billion. Then in the next episode, “Chiantishire,” Kendall agrees to the buyout, but Logan says the original offer was just “for fun,” and then... the conversation degrades into emotional violence.

The good news is, as long as your megalomaniacal father isn’t running the company you work for, you have the option to cash out any stock options your employer has granted you — as long as those options have “vested.”

A vesting period is the length of time your employer requires to pass before you’re able to purchase your stock options (and then sell them for a profit). The most common vesting schedule is a four-year cliff, where a quarter of your shares are vested each year you work for the company, until they’re all vested at the end of the fourth year. At that point you can “exercise” all of your options, and then sell them for a profit, assuming their value has increased since they were granted. However, know that when you sell your stock options, you will owe taxes on any profit you make.

You can attend shareholder meetings (and vote)

One of the most suspenseful sequences this season is the shareholder meeting in "Retired Janitors of Idaho," where the Roys try to settle with Sandy and Stewy before their shareholders have a chance to vote away the Roy family’s majority stake in Waystar Royco.

You don’t have to own thousands of shares in a company to attend shareholder meetings and vote on issues like elections and strategic changes. If you own any shares of common stock in a public company, you can attend these meetings, whether they occur virtually or in-person.

However, in most instances, your vote counts as much as your ownership stake in the company, so owning 1,000 shares means your vote will count 1,000 times more than if you own a single share. Still, it’s a great reminder that owning stock really does mean you own a fraction of the company.

Image: Meredith Simonds