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Former Teen Heartthrob David Cassidy’s Estate in Turmoil

Partridge Family Publicity Photo - David Cassidy

David Cassidy, known as Keith Partridge in the popular show The Partridge Family and a teen heartthrob in the 1970s, died of organ failure in Fort Lauderdale on November 21, 2017 at the age of 67. He had been hospitalized with liver and kidney failure the week prior to his death and passed away surrounded by friends and family.   

By his 21st birthday David Cassidy had made his first million (in 1971 dollars!). In Cassidy’s early years alone he played around 350 concerts in 17 countries, and released 18 albums and 17 singles. He was so popular with his fans that on occasion he had to be smuggled into his concerts to avoid being mobbed.

Honored at the 2018 Screen Actors Guild Awards’ In Memoriam segment in 2018, Cassidy remained a performer throughout his life. However, both his professional and personal life went through ups and downs. Cassidy spoke openly about his “dark years” and his substance abuse problems. In recent years he had several DUI arrests, as well as being charged with a hit and run.  David was married several times and had two children. Coincidentally, my wife’s family was close friends of the parents of his last (and longest) wife, Sue Shifrin-Cassidy. He had one son, Beau, with Shifrin, and one daughter, Katie, who reportedly became estranged. Despite several large successes in his career, Cassidy eventually lost the majority of his money, filing for bankruptcy in 2015.

Last year Cassidy was diagnosed with dementia and in his final interview with PEOPLE, Cassidy spoke frankly about his diagnosis and his estrangement from eldest daughter Katie.

He told the magazine that a part of him always expected to get dementia, as both his grandfather and mother had battled it. Perhaps foreseeing his eventual fate – of an early death or dementia – he took care to plan his estate in 2004. Cassidy’s will left the majority of his estate to son Beau, with a few items of music memorabilia to his half-siblings. In the end, Beau reportedly received just $150,000.  His estranged daughter Katie was purposely left out of his will entirely.

Unfortunately Beau may not even get what he was left. Cassidy’s estate is now being sued by several Florida lawyers. The personal representative of Cassidy’s estate is objecting to both claims and refusing to pay. The attorneys claim Cassidy owes them in excess of $120,000, bills they say were not discharged by his bankruptcy filing in 2015.  

The story of Cassidy’s estate is not sad on account of fighting between family members or for any particular estate planning mistakes. After all, he did do an estate plan, and he did it well before he began to suffer from dementia. In addition, his family reportedly came together to support him as his health declined. Instead, Cassidy’s estate is more symbolic of a life of success coupled with severe substance abuse problems.

There wasn’t much that could be done to prevent someone like Cassidy from accessing large amounts of money to fuel a substance problem. After all, it was his money. But if a parent foresees a problem with a child – there is a lot that can be done to protect that child from funds that could potentially harm his or her well being.

In my probate and estate planning practice, I have worked with families whose children are dealing with substance abuse issues. In some cases, a family member died with no will or trust in place – leaving hundreds of thousands of dollars outright to an heir with serious drug problems. There’s very little that can be done in this case to safeguard the money – and the child once they’ve turned 18.

In other cases, I have helped parents to set up trusts that facilitate the disbursement of assets in a carefully structured manner to children for whom the money could do more harm than good.

For questions about Estate Planning, including Preventative Estate Planning, contact my SF East Bay Probate Firm at 925-322-1795 for a consultation.

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