Details of Casey Kasem’s death: An Estate Planning Cautionary Tale

October 24, 2014

The name Casey Kasem has appeared many times in the news this year. Most of us know Kasem as one of the most famous radio DJs in American history. But if you haven’t been following the news very closely, you may not know why his death and the months leading up to it have been so fraught with controversy.

Casey Kasem died at age 82 in June of this year. He has yet to be buried. This is, in large part, due to longstanding disagreements between his three children and their stepmother, who had been married to Kasem for more than 30 years. This case is tragic for all involved, and a good reminder of why estate planning is so important. It is not just about wills and trusts. It is also an important way for individuals to plan for end-of-life care and to make their final wishes known.

Mr. Kasem suffered from dementia, and in the final year of his life, the rift between his longtime wife and his children grew even wider. When the former DJ’s health deteriorated, his wife Jean allegedly did not allow his children to visit. His daughter went to court and was granted conservatorship, but the battles continued with Jean over his healthcare and other matters.

When Kasem died in June, his daughter’s conservatorship ended and Jean had legal authority over burial plans. His children say that Kasem wanted to be buried in California, but his wife allegedly flew the body to Oslo, Norway, to be buried there. Kasem had no connection to the country. The disputes over his burial are ongoing, and his body is currently residing in a mortuary.

Casey Kasem’s final months and his burial may have gone very differently if his wishes had been put into writing. It is unclear what kind of estate planning he had done, but news sources say that his funeral and burial wishes had only been made verbally.

Most families will not be faced with this level of conflict. However, having a clear and thorough estate plan in place can usually prevent this risk altogether. For your own sake and for the people you love, please make sure that your estate plan includes provisions for end-of-life care, funeral/burial wishes and a clearly written will.

Source: Crain’s Wealth, “Casey Kasem is still not buried: a lesson in preplanning,” Danielle and Andy Mayoras, Oct. 15, 2014

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