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What quick succession in death has to do with estate planning

When former President George H.W. Bush, a Massachusetts native, passed away in November, he joined his beloved wife, Barbara, who died in April. It isn't uncommon to see couples who have been married a long time – the Bushes were wed for 73 years – pass away in quick succession.

But such quick deaths raise an issue when it comes to estate planning. When one spouse quickly follows another in death, administering an estate presents a challenge. How challenging it is depends on a handful of factors, including the amount of time between the two deaths and how the estate plan was drafted.

For instance, some trusts or wills have provisions that require a spouse to survive for a certain amount of time. And if they don't, that could have implications as the estate is probated.

President Bush likely outlived such a provision, if there was one, but he could have made certain decisions in estate planning after the passing of his wife. For example, he could have chosen to refuse to take the interest he was entitled to in his wife's estate and pass it on to the next beneficiaries. In the case of the Bushes, where they seemingly had plenty of assets for President Bush to live out his life without an inheritance from his wife, he might have made that choice.

The Bushes lived long lives into their 90s. They are a perfect example of how our estate planning needs change as we age. They and their family could have benefited from frequent reviews of their estate plans and modifications as necessary.

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