16 Mar Casey Kasem’s Daughter Crusades to Change Conservatorship Laws
Those who remember Casey Kasem, the irrepressible host and co-founder of several music radio countdown programs, most notably American Top 40, was also a music historian, actor and did voiceover commercials. Kasem was 82 when he died in 2014 from complications from Parkinson’s disease.
Wife barred family from visiting or speaking with their father
Kasem’s daughter, Kerri, has been on a mission to make sure that what happened to her family doesn’t happen to others. Kasem suffered from advanced Parkinson’s disease and was virtually bedridden. By the time he died, Kasem was also suffering from serious bed sores, a urinary tract infection and sepsis. He couldn’t walk without assistance and may have had diminished mental capacity. Jean, his wife of more than 30 years, had barred Kasem’s children from his first marriage and other friends and family from visiting or speaking with Kasem. Kasem’s children wanted to be able to visit their father and didn’t understand his isolation, which is a form of abuse in itself. Jean insisted that it was “toxic” for the family to visit, though she refused to elaborate publicly.
Filing for Conservatorship
The family held a protest in front of the Kasem home. When that failed, they filed for Conservatorship, hoping to prove neglect and that they would be appointed to make decisions for their father, who was unable to make proper decisions for himself due to his debilitating medical condition.
The court held an initial hearing to determine if there was an emergency that would necessitate an immediate intervention. A court-appointed attorney visited Kasem and reported that he was not in distress and was receiving “adequate” care. The Judge ordered Kasem to undergo a medical evaluation, but no Conservator was appointed at the initial hearing, which is typical when no emergency exists. Kasem’s children contacted both the police and adult protective services, and neither found a need for intervention, which is typical unless there are overt signs of neglect or abuse.
Dueling Powers of Attorney
Part of the dispute focused on the validity of competing medical power of attorney documents. Kasem signed one naming his daughter and her husband, a doctor, to make decisions for him in 2007. Then in 2011, he apparently signed a different one appointing his wife in that role. Both sides have challenged the validity of the other’s documents, questioning whether Casey Kasem was competent at the time, or whether he was improperly influenced to sign them.
If Casey Kasem were competent and free of undue influence when he signed the 2011 power of attorney, then it would control — unless the children could show that Jean Kasem wasn’t acting in her husband’s best interests. Kerri and her relatives pushed for elder abuse charges to be filed against Jean Kasem. She removed him from a nursing home against medical advice and moved him around the country, which they believe caused or contributed to his death. After Casey died, Jean had Casey’s body moved to Canada and finally Norway, where he eventually buried, without an autopsy having been performed.
Lack of evidence resulted in no prosecution of the case
Despite Kerri Kasem’s efforts, the L.A. District Attorney’s office decided it would not prosecute the case due to lack of evidence of criminal neglect or abuse. The investigating attorney believed that Jean Kasem “made continuous efforts to ensure that Mr. Kasem was medically supervised.”
Kerri Kasem, on the other hand, believes that her father’s death could have been prevented if she and her siblings had been able to see him and monitor his care, but there were not sufficient protections in the law to help them.
Kasem Cares Foundation to protect the rights of incompetent adults
Kerri Kasem wants to protect other families so they don’t have to fight as hard in court as she and her siblings did. She runs a foundation called the Kasem Cares Foundation and has been working with legislators in various states to try to pass new laws to protect communication and visitation between incompetent adults and their relatives.
Conservatorships arrange for the care and protection of those who are unable to make important life decisions for themselves. If you have questions about Conservatorships, contact us at one of our three Bay Area locations.