It's never easy watching parents or elder relatives losing their independence as they grow older. Simple tasks can become difficult or even impossible to accomplish without help; mental changes may also have a particularly difficult emotional impact. We wrote last week about how guardianships can help protect elders like this from certain types of exploitation. However, establishing guardianships or conservatorships is not a "set it and forget it" proposition, as a recent story in the headlines illustrates.
West Palm Beach residents may recall the family disputes in the weeks leading up to the death of radio personality Casey Kasem last spring. At 82 years old, Kasem suffered incapacitating illness and was fed via feeding tube in a nursing home until his wife abruptly defied medical advice and drove Kasem out of the home. She did not tell his adult children from his first marriage where she was taking him, although she was later found with Kasem at a friend's home in the Pacific Northwest.
Meanwhile, one of Kasem's daughters had sought and been granted conservatorship of her father and obtained a court's ruling to see him and have him medically evaluated. They found Kasem in terrible condition, and a court finally ruled that he could be taken off of life support. Kasem died in June, but with his death ended his daughter's conservatorship.
This has proven to be the source of another dispute, as Kasem's wife legally has the authority to manage his burial. She has moved the star's body outside the United States, and his daughter believes that she is trying to avoid the risk of an elder abuse investigation. The situation remains unresolved, with Kasem's wife attempting to access a trust he has established for the children, and they not having any knowledge of what provisions his will contains.
Difficult disputes like these are unfortunately common when one's estate plan is incomplete. That includes not only establishing plans like wills, guardianships and conservatorships depending on the circumstances, but also discussing these plans with one's heirs and other family members to ensure everyone is clear on what one's wishes are and how they should be carried out.
Source: Forbes, "Why Is Casey Kasem Still Not Buried? Conflict Shows Importance Of Preplanning," Danielle and Andy Mayoras, Oct. 6, 2014