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Casey Kasem's family strife speaks to importance of estate planning

Casey Kasem remains in the news, but not for the reasons one would expect. Yes, Kasem was among the most popular radio DJs in American history. And yes, he died in June after struggling with Lewy Body dementia and other health problems. But now, some four months after his death, Casey Kasem is still in the news because his remains have not yet been laid to rest.

According to news sources, Kasem's three adult children have never really gotten along with his second wife, Jean Kasem, to whom he was married for more than 30 years. The bitter feud between Jean and the children culminated in constant frustration near the end of Casey Kasem's life and continues after his death. His story is a cautionary tale about the importance of solid estate planning.

It's important to remember that estate plans are not just about wills and trusts. Rather, most estate plans also contain advance healthcare directives, documents stating wishes for end-of-life care and funeral/burial wishes. In his final year of life, Kasem's dementia did not really allow him to care for himself or make important decisions. This reportedly put Jean Kasem in conflict with Casey Kasem's daughter, who went to court and was granted conservatorship over her father.

When Kasem died, the conservatorship ended and Jean had legal authority to decide the details of her husband's funeral and burial. Kasem's children have said that he wanted to be buried in California, but these wishes were only stated verbally. For some reason, however, Jean decided that he should be buried in Norway, despite a total lack of connection to the country.

Norwegian officials have since heeded pleas from Kasem's children, and at least one funeral home refused to bury him there. It remains unclear when and how this will all end. Jean has also said she is planning to go after the trust that was set up for Casey Kasem's children.

Family life can be complicated at times, particularly when biological family does not get along with relatives by marriage. No matter what your particular family situation may be, the best way to protect your loved ones from this kind of strife is to have a clear and thorough estate plan in place.

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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