In Estate Administration, dying without a will can be complicated. Casey Kasem, best known for his time as the “American Top 40” radio host, passed away one June 15, 2014 as a result of complications from dementia. He was 82 years old. Kasem is survived by his second wife, Jean Kasem, and four children, three from his first marriage (Kerri, Mike, and Julie), and one from his marriage to Jean (Liberty).
Kasem’s death was proceeded by extreme public feuding between his three oldest children and their step-mother, consisting of protests outside the Kasem’s Los Angeles mansion and Jean throwing raw hamburger meat at her step-daughters. What will become of his $80 million estate if he died without a will leaving behind this feuding family?
Dying without a will in place is called dying intestate and the estate is referred to as an intestate estate. Under Pennsylvania law there are rules of succession, as to who receives a share of the intestate estate and when. “The share of the estate, if any, to which the surviving spouse is not entitled, and the entire estate if there is no surviving spouse,” shall pass to: (1) issue; (2) parents, if there is no surviving issue; (3) brothers, sisters, or their issue, if there are no surviving parents; (4) grandparents, if there is no issue of the decedent’s parents; (5) uncles, aunts, their children, and grandchildren, if there are no surviving grandparents; (6) the Commonwealth, if no one listed above is surviving. 20 Pa.C.S.A. § 2103.
In Pennsylvania, the surviving spouse’s share is determined by whether the decedent is survived by issue or parents. If there are no surviving issue or parents of the decedent, the spouse gets the entire intestate estate. If there are no surviving issue, but the decedent is survived by at least one parent, the spouse gets the first $30,000, plus one-half of the remaining balance of the intestate estate. If there are surviving issue of the decedent all of whom are also issue of the surviving spouse, the spouse will receive the first $30,000, plus one-half of the remaining balance of the intestate estate. If there are surviving issue, of whom one or more is not the issue of the surviving spouse, the spouse will get one-half of the intestate estate. 20 Pa.C.S.A. § 2102.
If the Kasem estate was administered in Pennsylvania, Jean would receive one-half of the intestate estate. But how would the other half be divided up? “When the persons entitled to take . . . other than the surviving spouse are all in the same degree of consanguinity to the decedent, they shall all take in equal shares.” 20 Pa.C.S.A. § 2104. This means that since the other persons who are entitled to take a share of the estate are all Kasem’s issue, the remaining one-half would be divided equally between the four children.