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Why to include funeral and burial wishes in your estate plan

When most people think of estate planning, they think of creating wills and trusts in order to pass down assets upon death. However, effective estate planning involves much more than just distributing your assets upon death. It should also address many other important issues such as end of life care and funeral and burial wishes.

Discussing their own funeral is the last thing that most Massachusetts residents want to do, but as the tragic ordeal surrounding Casey Kasem’s death shows us, planning out these matters ahead of time can prevent serious conflict, especially when second families are involved. 

Casey Kasem, known best as the DJ for the American Top 40 Countdown, started his second family when he married his second wife more than 30 years ago. After he became very ill with numerous conditions including Lewy Body dementia the rift between his first and second families became greater than ever.

During the last year of Kasem’s life, Kasem’s second wife, Jean, would not allow Kasem’s children from his first marriage to see him. The adult children filed a conservatorship proceeding in court and were eventually permitted visitation rights with their father. However, the story then took several bizarre twists, including a national manhunt for Kasem after Jean took him from his nursing home to an undisclosed location, and eventually Kasem was taken off of life support.

Kasem died June 15, 2014 and still has not been laid to rest. While Kasem’s children from his first marriage and many of his friends say he wanted to be buried in California, Jean is insisting upon burying Kasem in Norway, where she reportedly plans to move. The problem is that Kasem only said that he wanted to be buried in California and never put it in writing.

The legal battle over Kasem’s final resting place could potentially last years, causing a significant emotional toll on everyone involved. The tragic story is an example of how simply including funeral and burial wishes in an estate plan can  avoid serious conflict, especially when second families are involved. 

Source: Crain’s Wealth, “Casey Kasem is still not buried: a lesson in preplanning,” Danielle and Andy Mayoras, Oct. 15, 2014

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