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.