Ever since October of 2013, beloved radio personality Casey Kasem has been at the center of a bitter dispute between his children and his wife. At issue is who gets to make decisions for the incapacitated former host of the American Top 40 Countdown radio show.
Kasem, 82, had hosted the popular Sunday radio program for decades before retiring in 2009. In October of 2013, Kasem was diagnosed with Lews body dementia. The medical condition, very similar to Parkinson’s disease, is the second most common cause of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease. There is no cure for Lews body dementia, and though there are some treatments that can alleviate symptoms, sufferers are left unable to make decisions. Kasem is apparently not able to communicate, and his wife, Jean Kasem, has been managing his affairs on his behalf.
The conflict between Kasem’s wife and adult children arose after the children claimed that Jean Kasem had denied them access to see or visit with their father. Kasem’s children asked a court to intervene in the conflict. The conflict continued to escalate after Kasem’s children were reportedly unable to find their father and filed a missing person repot.
Recently, the court granted Kerri Kasem, Casey’s daughter, a temporary conservatorship. The court also ordered Jean Kasem to allow Kerri access to see her father.
Incapacitation, Family, and Conflict
The Kasem situation is unfortunately common, especially in cases where blended families are not on the best of terms. Kasem’s adult children from his first marriage and his current wife appear to have been at odds over the care and treatment of their father for some time. In such situations it’s common for the children from the previous marriage to feel entitled to make decisions for their father, while the father’s spouse can feel the same thing. The law, however, makes it clear that unless the deceased person has left instructions otherwise, it is the spouse who is usually entitled to make decisions for that person.
What is important to point out, however, is that people can take control of the situation well in advance of becoming incapacitated. If, for example, you are in a blended family situation and your children do not get along with your spouse, you can make your wishes clear by creating an incapacity plan. Whether you want your spouse to be able to make decisions for you, or want to give decision-making authority to someone else, you can make your decisions known. In many situations, simply explaining what you want and making your choices known to your loved ones can go a long way to fend off potential conflict.
To learn more about how you can avoid conflict in the case of incapacitation, come to one of our estate planning workshops in June. Our attorneys put on a detailed presentation that will help you understand wills, trusts, incapacitation, and nursing home asset protection.