A Conservator, Probate, the Top 40, and Law Suits

A conservator and a probate case that started years before death and promises to continue, in one form or the other, for years. That’s the brief description of the Casey Kasem estate.

Casey and Friends conservatorThe American Top 40 DJ for decades, the man with the unmistakable voice, died at age 82 in June 2014. His probate case, however, started years earlier and it is, and remains, a cautionary tale for everyone.

Kasem married Linda Myers in 1972, they had three children and divorced in 1979. Kasem married actress Jean Thompson in 1980, you may know her from her stint in Cheers, or by the outlandish clothes she wore on many a Red Carpet. They had one child, When they married, Casey was 47 and Jean was 24. It appears that the age difference was a significant problem for the children of his first marriage.

Kasem was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2007. Not long after, our story really starts. Casey lost the ability to walk, and the man whose voice had introduced generations to everyone from Three Dog Night (ask your parents or grandparents) to Madonna to Arcade Fire (ask your kids), as well as voicing Shaggy in Scooby-Doo, sadly all but lost the ability to speak.

Kasem had executed a health care directive in 2007, giving health care decision-making abilities to his daughter from his first marriage and her husband. His daughter is a licensed physician assistant with advanced training in palliative and hospice care, and her husband is a cardiologist at UCLA Medical Center.

As Casey deteriorated, he lived at home with his wife. The children from the first marriage, Casey’s brother, and a few other relatives began to complain that they were being stopped from visiting him. Eventually, after months of no contact with Casey, his daughter filed in probate court requesting to be appointed Casey’s conservator. She submitted the health care proxy as proof of Kasem’s wishes.

Things got uglier. Jean answered the suit and gave the court a copy of a new health care proxy/power of attorney recently executed appointing her as Kasem’s proxy. Accusations of undue influence and coercion flew back and forth. After a series of hearings, the probate court appointed Jean conservator, citing the fact that they had been married for 35 years and Casey still lived with her.

The court also imposed a visitation schedule, to ensure that everyone in the family could see Casey. You can probably guess that this did not work for very long. Eventually the daughter and her husband submitted new healthcare proxies and power of attorney – vigorously attacked by Jean and her team – and were appointed conservators.

They were the conservators when Casey finally succumbed to his disease.

But, that hasn’t ended a thing. There is a dispute over who is the ‘true’ executor of the estate, both sides are suing each other for the ‘wrongful’ death of an 82-year-old man with Parkinson’s and a severe form of dementia. Those suits, of course, severely affect the estate and all of its permutations.

There’s a lot more here, including the bizarre story of the whereabouts of poor Casey’s body.

It’s a valuable lesson that probate is a lot more than just estates and wills and distribution of assets.