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When families disagree about care: the Kasem conservatorship case

Conservatorships are sometimes necessary to safeguard the interests of a family member who no longer has the capacity to make their own financial or medical decisions. When there is no power of attorney in place, or a power of attorney is not being honored, a conservatorship may be in order.

But cases involving the creation -- or attempted creation - of a conservatorship can be deeply controversial among family members. The current case in California regarding an attempt to create a conservatorship for the former celebrity disk jockey Casey Kasem is a case in point.

In this post, we will discuss that case and the lessons it holds for the estate planning process in Massachusetts and across the nation.

Casey Kasem was a household name for decades, hosting an iconic radio show that aired from coast to coast. In an era before the Internet changed music distribution profoundly, his radio show "American Top 40" was immensely influential.

Now, however, Kasem is 81 and suffering from Parkinson's disease. His children say he is experiencing early-onset dementia due to Parkinson's. They are engaged in a legal fight with their stepmother over who should make decisions about Casey Kasem's health care.

One of Kasem's daughters and her husband say that, six years ago, Casey Kasem gave them responsibility for making health care decisions for him if he became unable to do so. They say he did this by executing a power of attorney document for health care.

The daughter and her husband contend that their stepmother has not allowed them to play this role -- or even to visit Casey Kasem. They have filed a lawsuit, seeking to have a conservatorship imposed by the court.

A hearing in the case is scheduled for next month. Regardless of how it comes out, the case is a stark reminder that litigation may be necessary when family members cannot agree about a loved one's care.

Source: CNN, "Casey Kasem's kids take stepmom to court," Alan Duke, Oct. 8, 2013

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