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Estate Planning

Learning from Glen Campbell and Casey Kasem: Fractured Families

Glen Campbellcasey kasemSometimes, the stories of celebrities’ troubles illustrate the most tragic, heart-wrenching aspects of modern life.

This is particularly true in the lives of two legendary men: radio star Casey Kasem and country singer Glen Campbell. Their stories reveal the potential fissures in blended families and the conflict that can ensue when the wishes of an ailing person are not in writing prior to their demise.

Casey Kasem, afflicted with Parkinson’s Disease and eventually dying from its complications, was cared for by his second wife, Jean, who did not allow her husband to have contact with the children from his first marriage. Glen Campbell, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, has now entered a nursing home, a decision made by his current wife and children, but disputed by children from previous marriages. (A documentary about Glen Campbell’s struggle with Alzheimer’s called “Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me” is available on Netflix.)

What happens when a person declines physically and mentally and various family members disagree about care and final wishes? It appears that it is impossible to be prescient about all of the permutations that can occur at the ends of one’s life.  Indeed, older people may find it easier to focus on getting their affairs in order by ensuring that their wills are up-to-date and that their attorneys are aware of their final wishes regarding the disposition of their estate rather than finding solutions for problems that do not yet exist, particularly in complex, often hostile family dynamics.

Casey Kasem’s daughter Kerri has become a spokesperson for the rights of adult children to visit their sick parents and has gotten some traction for her cause in a few states, which have pending legislation guaranteeing visitation rights for adult children. At the time of her father’s incapacitation, Kerri found little recourse when she was allegedly blocked from visiting her father by her stepmother. Casem’s second wife, Jean Kasem, moved her husband from California to Washington and then after he died, took his body first to Canada and then to Norway, without disclosing the location of the graveyard or allowing for an autopsy.

Kerri Kasem would like states to require conservators (those who are responsible for the care of a person who is physically or mentally incapacitated) to allow reasonable accommodations for adult children to visit their parents. Further, she would like conservators to be required to inform relatives if their “charge” is hospitalized or dies and to disclose funeral arrangements and burial location to these children.

In Iowa, required adult visitation is now the law. Under the measure, adults under the care of a legal guardian have the right to receive visits from family members and others, if they have previously indicated that they wish to see these people. At this point, the guardian still retains control as to the timing of visitation, its length and frequency as well as the location of visits. Texas and California have passed similar laws.

Michigan does not have an adult visitation law, although a bill to that effect has been sponsored and introduced. Making one’s wishes known to family members as well as one’s attorney may be helpful. Enlisting an attorney who specializes in guardianship issues may also be necessary.