Casey Kasem's Estate Planning Not in Anyone's Top 40

Posted By Steven Adler || 4-Sep-2014

Casey Kasem, the celebrity radio host who counted down America's Top 40 popular songs for years, died on June 15 at the age of 82 and left behind an estimated $80 million fortune. He also left a family feud of biblical proportions between his surviving spouse and his three children from a prior marriage. This is why estate planning attorneys do what we do -- to keep your family out of court and connected in love, not conflict.

Kasem married his second wife, Jean, who is 22 years his junior, in 1980. Together, they had one child, Liberty Kasem. Casey also had three children from a prior marriage: Kerri, Mike and Julie. The family was apparently in discord prior to Casey's death; in mid-May, Mike and Julie filed a missing persons case with the Santa Monica police department saying they could not locate their father. At that time, Kerri was fighting with Jean over control of his care.

After Kasem died, news broke that his body had been taken from the Washington state funeral home and a judge awarded Kerri a temporary restraining order preventing Jean from removing his remains or having him cremated before an autopsy had been performed. Kerri hired a private investigator who says the body has been moved to Montreal, the hometown of a man that Jean has allegedly been involved with for the past two years.

A mess, right? And they haven't even gotten to the money yet!

A little advance estate planning could have helped prevent this scenario, which is not uncommon when an older man takes a second wife who is significantly younger and has children from a prior marriage.

A recent WSJ Marketwatch.com article outlined four estate planning tools that could have helped to head off this disaster:

Revocable Trust. Placing assets in a revocable trust can help protect the trust owner's wealth transfer wishes, and provides the flexibility to make changes as long as the trust owner has the legal capacity to make those decisions. Upon the owner's death, the assets are dispersed as outlined in the trust without having to go through probate. A trust is also more difficult to contest than a will.

Life Insurance. A life insurance policy can be a good way to provide for a surviving spouse while leaving the rest of the estate to children from a previous marriage, or vice versa.

QTIP Trust. A qualified terminal interest property (QTIP) trust is used to set aside assets for a surviving spouse's benefit while that spouse is alive. After the surviving spouse passes, the remaining assets in the trust are passed on according to the trust terms.

Family Meeting. Having a family meeting so that everyone knows their beneficiary status and what will happen to the estate after the estate owner dies is a good way to head off conflict. An estate planning attorney can mediate these meetings, which is usually advisable when there is a potential for conflict.