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Daughters of Two Late Celebrities Push for Elder Law Legislation

When Catherine Falk asked to see her ailing father, her stepmother slammed the door in her face, and when Kerri Kasem wanted to take her dying father to a hospital, her stepmother threw raw hamburger at her. These battles made news because the women’s fathers were well-known public figures—Peter Falk and Casey Kasem. Both died in the midst of family legal wrangling over the visitation rights of relatives, says The LA Times in “These children of celebrity dads are taking their stepmoms to court.”

“It cost me $400,000 to see my father,” Kerri Kasem recalled as she traveled to New Mexico to testify before the Legislature. Her Kasem Cares Foundation is supporting legislation that would make it easier for friends and relatives to visit ailing elders. The same day, Catherine Falk went to Utah to promote a similar visitation bill supported by the Catherine Falk Organization. These two have become a powerful combo for reforming visitation laws, lobbying for change in more than 30 states. The bills focus on visitation rights and seek to provide intervention for seniors being physically or financially abused. The ultimate goal is a uniform federal law, however the bills are different in each state.

Falk’s legislation defines the legal standards for conservators, including a duty to inform relatives of a subject’s illness or death, and permits “reasonable visitation” access. Any issues would be settled in a streamlined court process to determine if the visit would be harmful to the senior.

When Falk died at the age of 83, Catherine and her sister learned of his death from the media and were never informed when he was buried. Her stepmother testified that she had taken proper care of her husband as his appointed caregiver.

Kasem, the longtime “American Top 40” host, was removed from an LA-area hospital by his second wife Jean Kasem. Disconnected from a feeding tube and barely able to walk or speak, Casey was taken to Las Vegas, then to Washington State, where he died from complications of dementia. Jean then reportedly flew Casey’s body to Canada and then Norway, where he was buried at the conclusion of an eight-month, 8,000-mile odyssey.

Then came a drawn-out legal challenge where the Los Angeles district attorney’s office investigated Jean Kasem for neglect and elder abuse. However, it concluded there was insufficient evidence to support criminal charges. The DA’s Office said that Jean Kasem had made “continuous efforts to ensure that Mr. Kasem was medically supervised,” and that relocating him to Washington was an effort to protect his privacy.

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