Estate Planning Lessons Learned from Casey Kasem

Estate Planning Lessons Learned from Casey Kasem

If you’ve been following the latest celebrity news, you may be curious about what’s going on with Casey Kasem. Kasem was a well-known music and radio personality and actor who, among other things, hosted America’s Top 40 music countdown. At 82 years old, the icon was suffering from Lewy body dementia — a condition that affects 1.3 million individuals and their families in the United States.

When Kasem suddenly disappeared for a few weeks in Washington, Kasem’s wife explained that he was simply on vacation. His step-daughter Kerri, however, claimed her father was suffering from massive bedsores and a serious infection.

In both California and Washington, judges agreed that Kerri, and not Kasem’s wife, should have control over the ailing radio host’s medical care. Unfortunately, Mr. Kasem did not set up a mechanism to resolve such matters in the unforeseeable event of his incapacity. He did, however, have a lining will. In it, he indicated that if he were ever in such a medical situation, he wanted artificial hydration and nutrition ceased. Because of that and because he was not responding to the feeding or hydration, the court allowed Kerri to terminate that life support. Shortly after that, he died on June 15, 2014.

The following are two estate planning tools Kasem could have utilized to provide for the possibility of incapacity:

  • Durable power of attorney — Many people make the mistake of assuming that if something should happen to them, family members will simply figure out what to do. The truth of the matter is that your family must have you declared legally incompetent in order to handle your finances. Achieving this can be time consuming and stressful. Instead, you can rely on a durable power of attorney. This entails designating an individual you trust to make medical, legal and financial decisions on your behalf.
  • Designation of Health Care Surrogate. With a document naming a health care surrogate, you can designate someone to make medical decisions on your behalf if you cannot. Mr. Kasem did not have one of these, but if he did, perhaps much of the litigation his family was involved in would not have happened.
  • Living will — A living will is a written statement that explains the types of medical procedures you want or do not want to undergo in the event that you become incapacitated and unable to make such decisions on your own. Mr. Kasem did have a living will, which ultimately allowed his desires to be carried out.

Planning your estate now can give you the peace of mind that your family will be taken care of if something terrible should befall you. To find out more about health care advance directives in Tampa or elsewhere in Florida, consult an attorney.