Truth, Lies & Estate Planning in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

“What’s that smell in this room? Didn’t you notice it, Brick? Didn’t you notice a powerful and obnoxious odor of mendacity in this room?” – Harvey ‘Big Daddy’ Pollitt in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Tennessee Williams’ play and the film starring Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, and Burl Ives is a classic. If you haven’t read it or seen it before, you should. It tells the story of a Mississippi cotton titan nicknamed Big Daddy, and the lies his family tells one another. 

The favorite son, Brick, is an ex-football player who is drinking his life away following the death of his best friend. His wife, Maggie “the Cat,” is starved for affection, and concerned that her husband will be cut out of his father’s estate plan if he doesn’t stop drinking. 

Brick’s older brother, Gooper, is a lawyer. He and his wife have a brood of children and are clearly plotting ways to ensure Big Daddy sees them as the strongest branch of the family tree, able to carry on his legacy and inherit his $10 million+ estate.

Big Daddy is dying but he doesn’t know it. Neither does is wife, Big Momma. The doctor was too scared to tell them the truth, but he did tell Brick and Gooper. As the story plays out over the day of Big Daddy’s birthday, truth after painful truth is revealed. 

Truth is the main theme explored in the play/movie, but the story also offers up some important estate planning lessons. 

Nobody Lives Forever 

Even if Big Daddy wasn’t sick, it is risky for him to be running a business without an estate plan in place. This is as common an issue today as it was when Big Daddy’s story was written. 

At Palmer & Slay, we work with lots of clients who are so busy building their businesses they didn’t feel like they can take the time needed to make an estate plan. Or who fear what will happen to their business after they are gone, so they pushed those fears aside instead of facing them straight on. 

The reality is nobody lives forever. We are all granted only so much time on this earth — even those of us who have a business to run! 

You can best protect your business and sooth some of your fears about the future by working with an experienced estate planning attorney that can advise you not just about your personal assets, but about succession planning for your business. 

Grief & Greed Feed On One Another

In Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Gooper and his wife grow increasingly obnoxious in their attempts to win Big Daddy’s inheritance. At first, they are just suck-ups, but by the end, Gooper is waving legal documents he has drafted in Big Mamma’s face and yelling at her to sign them. It’s nasty. And unfortunately, it feeds into some estate planning stereotypes. 

We have worked with many clients who were shocked that our firm didn’t force a cookie-cutter estate plan full of bells and whistles they didn’t want or need on them. Other clients have revealed that they are being coerced into making an estate plan by their relatives. 

Both scenarios break our hearts. At Palmer & Slay we go out of our way to ensure that each estate plan we craft is uniquely suited to the needs of the family it will serve. Furthermore, we aim to protect our clients from greedy or overbearing family members who are more concerned with their inheritance than their loved ones’ well-being. 

“There ain’t nothin’ more powerful than the odor of mendacity!” -Big Daddy

We’re not going to spoil the ending of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof if you have never read or seen it. But we are going to encourage you to protect your loved ones by meeting with our experienced estate planning team. Please contact our office today to schedule an initial consultation.