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Estate planning lessons from the Bushes

While many people in Pennsylvania may not expect that they have much in common with George and Barbara Bush, the couple's passing may lead people to consider some factors that could be important for planning their estates. It is a known phenomenon for long-term, older married couples to pass away in quick succession. Sometimes called "broken heart syndrome," the widow or widower may die shortly after their spouse passed away. In the case of the Bushes, George Bush died less than eight months after his wife Barbara's death.

High-visibility couples may not generally be known for their close emotional connection, but the Bushes had long been an exception to that general rule. Many older couples who have spent decades together and are highly dependent on one another may die in quick succession. In one of the most well-known cases, handbag designer Judith Leiber and her husband died within hours of each other of heart attacks.

There can be estate planning consequences for this "widowhood effect." In some cases, the entire estate may pass to the other spouse and then need to go to probate again only months later. In other cases, children of the first spouse may be unintentionally excluded from the final distribution of the estates. In particular, many surviving spouses may not promptly update beneficiary designations for life insurance or retirement funds, leading to additional confusion down the line. In order to avoid these unintended consequences, couples may want to think about different options to include in their plans for their assets.

People who are considering how to handle their finances and support their loved ones might benefit from consulting with Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, lawyers handling estate planning trusts. An attorney may develop key documents like wills, trusts and powers of attorney to help people draw up a plan that respects their wishes for the future.

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