End of Life Lessons to Learn from Casey Kasem

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Some 90% of seniors think it's important to plan their end-of-life decisions but only 30% of those people actually had open discussions about facing death, according to a Conversation Project survey.

"End of life is grueling for many, because it's scary," said Wendy Witt, director with Wealth Counsel's Advisors Forum. "It centers around all those things that make us very uncomfortable and fearful such as illness, dying, death, money and family."

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Kasey Casem entertained radio listeners for nearly 40 years as the host of countdown shows such as American Top 40 and Casey's Top 40, and despite having some advanced planning documents in place, the 82-year-old died on June 15 with a bitter legal battle raging on around him.

"Casey Kasem did take action to reduce prevent family discord but unfortunately it wasn't enough," Witt told MainStreet.

Baby Boomers are turning 65 at the rate of 10,000 per day, according to the Pew Research Center and people over 65 years old are expected to make up 20% of the total U.S. population by 2050, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse.

While the number of end of life disputes is rising with the aging of the American population, they can be minimized with detailed advance planning.

"The best way to prevent family discord, litigation and elder abuse is to name the appropriate people in trusted roles," said Witt. "A health care agent, for example, must be able to communicate effectively with medical professionals and family members but be sure to name a back up health care agent in case your primary agent is unwilling or unable to act at the time."

Kasem reportedly suffered from a progressive brain disorder called Lewy body dementia and was worth an estimated $80 million. He had expressed his wishes to pull the plug if he were ever to be in a comatose state and his daughter Kerri did just that after a judge ruled that the aging celebrity's medical care would remain in her hands as the agent in his Power of Attorney for health care. But the radio hosts' second wife, Jean Kasem, is reportedly accusing Kasem's daughter of killing her husband for the insurance payout.