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  • Writer's pictureJenny Rozelle, Host of Legal Tea

Celebrity Estate Planning - Casey Kasem - Episode 111

Hey there, Legal Tea Listeners! This is your host, Jenny Rozelle. I hope you all had a wonderful Labor Day weekend full of fun, maybe some relaxation (which was the theme of my weekend!), and maybe time with family and friends. We’re back, though, here on Legal Tea … and today, we’re on the “celebrity estate planning” topic and for today’s episode, we’re going to dive into what happened following the death of the voice of Shaggy on the Scooby Doo shows and movies, Casey Kasem. I think I accidentally said at the end of my last episode that Casey was the voice of SCOOBY – that was my mistake. In my head, I had Shaggy, but I think I slipped up and said Scooby. Anyway, Casey was the famous Shaggy voice –Shaggy, the sidekick of Scooby Doo. What a classic, right? Oh my goodness – I loved those shows and movies! Anyway, today’s episode is going to be on what happened following the death of Casey Kasem – but before we dive into that, let’s talk a little about Casey’s personal life to understand who and what was near-and-dear to him!

According to his Wikipedia page … Hailing from Detroit, Michigan, Casey was born in April 1932. He did some radio sports broadcasting as a young adult for a high school in Detroit – then, years later, he started doing professional broadcasting in Flint, Michigan. Though, due to his family needing his hands and help at their family grocery store, he stopped doing broadcasting. I think Wikipedia says it best: “Kasem’s voice was the key to his career.” That’s a perfect way to say it. Fast forward more years, in 1969, that’s when he started his career doing the voice for Shaggy on Scooby Doo. Now, he not only was the original voice of Shaggy, but he was also the longest-serving voice of Shaggy (to clarify, over time, there were others that served as Shaggy’s voice – but Casey was the original AND longest). Casey voiced Shaggy from 1969-1997 and again from 2002-2009. So, he did that a long time for sure!

The following year, in 1970, Casey, along with a few other people (Don Bustany, Tom Rounds, and Ron Jacobs), started the weekly radio program, America Top 40. This show ended up going nationwide and became QUITE the hit. A cool link between Scooby Doo and America Top 40 was that at the end of Scooby Doo, many will remember that Shaggy, aka Casey, ended the show with the saying, “Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars” Well, he ended the America Top 40 program with that exact same line! Beyond Shaggy and America Top 40, he also voiced A LOT more things – that if I tried to list them all, we may be here all day. So, just know his name/his voice was associated with many other characters in shows, movies, and he even did some acting too.

Personally speaking, Casey was married to a lady named Linda Myers from 1972 until 1979. Together, they had three children – Mike, Julie, and Kerri. Kind of a cool fun fact – two of the kids, Mike and Kerri, ended up getting into radio broadcasting, too. Shortly after Casey and Linda’s divorce, Casey married actress, Jean Thompson, in 1980 and they were together until Casey’s death. Together, Casey and Jean had one child, Liberty.

Fast forward some time, namely October 2013, Kerri, one of Casey’s daughters, announced that Casey had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease – but had been diagnosed back in 2007. So, her “announcement” came about 6 years after the diagnosis. Then, shortly after the announcement, Kerri shared that Casey had Lewy Body Dementia. His final months left Casey unable to speak – which, since he was most known for his voice, is about the saddest thing ever. As his condition, generally speaking, worsened, his wife, Jean, started putting up walls around Casey and, according to Wikipedia, “prevented any contact with [Casey], particularly by his children from his first marriage.” That, of course, went over like a lead balloon – and his kids from the first marriage, Mike, Julie, and Kerri, along with some of Casey’s family members, friends, and colleagues protested outside Casey and Jean’s house. It got so bad that the kids from his first marriage, Mike, Julie, and Kerri, attempted to become Casey’s conservators (or guardians) over their father; though, the Court denied their request.

The strangeness did not stop there! In May of 2014, Jean took Casey out of a nursing home that he was in at the time and as a response, Kerri, one of Casey’s daughters from the first marriage, once again sought conservatorship over Casey. This time, the Judge granted Kerri “temporary conservatorship” and the Court ordered that Jean disclose Casey’s whereabout. He was located in the state of Washington in a hospital – in critical, but stable condition. At this point, the Judge ordered that Casey’s kids from his first marriage and Casey’s spouse have separate ‘visitation’ rights to Casey. Though, that sure didn’t stop the drama because after visiting Casey, Jean said that at her visit, she learned that Casey had not been given food, water, or medication the prior weekend. Kerri, through her attorney, responded and said that she “had him removed from artificial food and water on the orders of a doctor, and in accordance with a directive [Casey] signed in 2007 saying he would not want to be kept alive if it ‘would result in a mere biological existence, devoid of cognitive function, with no reasonable hope for normal functioning.”

After learning what was happening and this directive signed by Casey, the Judge ordered that the family was allowed to put Casey on “end of life” measures – and of course, that was objected to by Jean, which was denied. So, then on June 14, 2004, Casey died at the age of 82. Would you believe me if I said that the drama did not stop there? Well, it didn’t. We’re really just getting started, unfortunately! After Casey’s death, Jean was allowed to “deal” with what to do with his body – and supposedly, Casey wanted to be buried. Well, not so fast, says the kids from the first marriage – because just over a month after Casey’s death, Kerri sought and ended up successfully getting a temporary restraining order to stop Jean from cremating Casey’s body – that was because Kerri wanted an autopsy to be performed.

Well, when Kerri marched her way to the funeral home with the temporary restraining order, the funeral home shared that the body had been moved at the direction of Jean – and it was moved to another funeral home. It sounds like a game of cat-and-mouse! Geez! Ultimately, after some even more back-and-forth, Casey was ultimately buried in Oslo, Norway on December 16, 2014 – SIX months after his death. Not a year after that, in November 2015, the kids from Casey’s first marriage, Mike, Julie, and Kerri, along with Casey’s brother sued Jean for wrongful death – and the lawsuit alleged that Jean committed elder abuse and inflicted emotional distress on them by not allowing them to see Casey before his passing.

Jean and her daughter that she shared with Casey, Liberty, counter-sued them claiming similar arguments. In non-legal terms, they were basically pointing the finger at each other … for the same exact thing. Though, according to an article in USA Today, Jean also further alleged that the kids from the first marriage “were motivated by their desire to get [Casey’s] money after he cut them off financially in 2012.” So yeah, the drama definitely continued even after Casey’s death. Sadly, right? His last years involved family fighting – and the fighting continued years after his passing. Can you imagine the legal fees through all of this? Man!

According to that article in USA Today – years later, specifically in 2019, both sides filed a joint pleading with the Court to officially dismiss both sides’ lawsuits. They shared in the pleading that they had come to terms on a settlement agreement; though, the terms were not made public. However, among the more vocal ones post-settlement was Kerri, who said in a statement that she was “distraught and heartbroken over her family and lawyers’ decision to force her into a settlement.” That’s a really interesting choice of words. Forced into a settlement. Hmmm.

Through all of this, there are certainly a few lessons from an estate planning perspective that can be learned. Most notably, it’s probably in regards to having health care-related estate planning instrument actually in place. According to a blog written by Bridget Mackay, an estate attorney out of California, which of course the link to this blog is in the source links for this episode, anyway … according to her blog, Casey had health care directives prepared in 2007 naming Kerri, the daughter, as his health care agent (which is who is to make health care decisions for him). He also did end-of-life documents stating what his wishes were regarding end-of-life measures. As we talked about, ultimately, the Court ended up “listening” (figuratively speaking) to his documents by appointing Kerri as the temporary conservator – and then when they discovered he was at the end of his life and Kerri had withdrawn life-prolonging treatment, the Court continued to “listen” to his documented end-of-life wishes, too. So, even though Jean objected to Kerri’s appointment and Kerri’s decisions, the Court sided with Kerri – likely mainly due to Casey having these documents in place.

However, unfortunately, that didn’t necessarily prevent Kerri (and company) and Jean from duking it out. As the blog notes, “the lesson [Casey] failed to appreciate in this situation was the depth of distrust and animosity between his children and his wife.” That’s so true and I’ve seen this play out in “real life” and in my own practice before. No one really knows, besides Casey and maybe his attorney who prepared the documents, the reason he picked Kerri as his health care agent over Jean – but he did. Period, end of story. Though, that sounds great and all, but I have to wonder if the war between Kerri and Jean could have been avoided, or at least somewhat lessened, by clear communication to ALL his kids and spouse. Like the blog states, “he either shouldn’t have named Kerri as his agent or made it very clear to his wife and the other two children about what he wanted any why he was naming Kerri, even if it would cause distress with his wife, Jean.” Could clear communication completely solve the issue? We’ll never know. We’re only left with the cards we were dealt, weren’t we? Just something to think of and consider.

Alrighty, I think we’re ready to wrap this episode up. Next week we’re back to a “cautionary tale” episode where we talk about real-life clients, real-life cases that I, or my office, have worked on. During that episode, we’re going to go into a story about a family that ended up fighting about WHO was going to be the executor – which is interesting to me because so many people say that people fight over the money after someone dies, which THEY DO, trust me, but this was not about the money – but who got to be in control. So we go into that story and talk about what kind of qualifications an Executor has to have to serve. So, tune in for that next week, my friends ,and until then, take care and be well!


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