We were really sad to hear that the iconic radio-show host Casey Kasem passed away recently in Gig Harbor, WA, amid a brutal family feud about his care, including accusations of kidnapping.
At LNWM, we work very closely with families to make sure their estate-planning documents are an accurate blueprint for carrying out each person’s wishes — not only after they pass, but up to that time.
In legal terms, the document that helps guide your medical care prior to death is called a “health care directive.” But it’s also frequently referred to a “durable power of attorney for medical decisions,” or a “living will.”
A health care directive details your wishes for end-of-life care, such as “no artificial hydration or breathing tube,” or if in a coma, to be disconnected from life support. This directive also appoints an individual(s) to make health care decisions on your behalf and to act as an advocate in seeing that your wishes are carried out.
What Can Go Wrong
Casey Kasem did have an end-of-life-care directive, signed in 2007 and appointing the three children from his first marriage to carry out his wishes. However, this was not enough: the children did not get along with Casey’s second wife of 33 years. Who knows why Casey chose his children over his wife, but the drama and bitter disagreements that ensued provide some indication.
Unfortunately, this type of feuding happens all too often, especially when a family is already in conflict. In our experience, openly communicating with all parties when you’re of sound mind and body can often alleviate misunderstandings. So when you do become incapacitated, everyone is clear on what you had intended.
This is why when we update our clients’ estate-planning documents, we ask them to have conversations with their family and other loved ones about end-of-life care. It’s not at all pleasant. But illness and death will happen. Being prepared and communicating your wishes — both in writing and verbally — will go a long way in helping your loved ones carry out your wishes while avoiding family feuds.
A recent and very good article on this topic can be found here.