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SENIOR ADVOCATE

By Liza Horvath

 

The Rights of Adult Children

 

A client once told me a story that her daughter-in-law had traveled to another state, drugged her own mother and brought the mom back to live in a nearby care facility – all “for her own good,” according to the daughter. The reason my client wanted me to know of this event was because, “if I ever go missing, check with my son and that wife of his.” It turned out that my client never went missing and passed away comfortably in her own home. The recent events surrounding radio icon Casey Kasem shined a fresh light on these kinds of issues that can instill fear in some seniors – as well as some of us pre-seniors.

 

The highly visible Kasem situation came to light last summer when Kasem’s three older children accused Kasem’s second wife, Jean Kasem, of denying them visitation to Kasem. He was succumbing to Lewy body disease – a progressive type of dementia – and was rendered unable to walk or communicate with his family by phone. The drama escalated when on May 7, 2:30 a.m., Jean Kasem, – against medical advice – removed Kasem from Berkley East Convalescent Hospital, placed him in a car and drove him to a private residence in Washington State. Logan Clarke, a private investigator hired by Kasem’s daughter, Kerri Kasem, believes the unorthodox removal of Kasem may have hastened his death.

 

Once Kasem’s location was determined, Kerri Kasem, with court approval, moved him to a hospital where he was provided with hospice care until he died on Father’s Day. As observers through media coverage, it is impossible to know what occurred during the 33-years that Casey Kasem was married to Jean and why the family relationships devolved into a need for legal intervention. However, most of us would never want to be put in Kasem’s position nor have our children put in a position where they felt the only recourse is to lawyer up and file suit. Are the seeds for a vile family battle germinating in your own family?

 

No specific term exists for the jockeying for position that takes place in families when a loved one is reaching life’s end or has already passed. Professionals who work in estate planning or administration are keenly aware that dynamics change – sometimes dramatically. Planners do what they can to foresee and hopefully forestall familial warfare and preserve peace, but can we, personally, take steps to keep family peace? The answer is yes and it can be as simple as writing a letter to those we love and clearly stating our wishes – but the letters need to be written now, while we have full mental capacity – and should spell out how you want to be treated, who you would like to visit, and who you would prefer is kept away. The letters should then be either delivered to the intended recipient or given to a trusted advisor, possibly your lawyer or trustee,  who will hold them until they are needed.

 

Not the best end of story for a wonderful person who provided us with decades of good music and memories, but the foundation that Kerri Kasem formed in honor of her father, Kasem Cares Foundation, which will lobby on behalf of visitation rights for adult children, will hopefully make a positive difference.

Liza Horvath has over 30 years experience in the estate planning and trust fields and is the president of Monterey Trust Management, a financial and trust management company. This is not intended to be legal or tax advice. If you have a questions call (831)646-5262 or email liza@montereytrust.com

 


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