Casey Kasem, the celebrity radio host who counted down America’s Top 40 popular songs for decades, 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. And this is exactly why I do what I do — to help keep your family 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 with children from a prior marriage takes a second, significantly younger wife.
A recent WSJ Marketwatch.com article outlined four estate planning tools that could have helped 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.
One of the main goals of my law practice is to help families like yours plan for the safe, successful transfer of wealth to the next generation without conflict or court involvement. Call my offices today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk about your family estate planning needs so we can identify the best strategies for you and your family to ensure you provide a legacy of love and financial security.