The death of Barbara Bush followed by the death of George H. W. Bush just a few months later is an example of an event that could cause problems for a couple’s estate plans. For couples who are married for decades, dying in fairly close succession is not unusual. Couples in Georgia can take precautions to protect their estates in case of this happening.

It is possible to include a provision in wills or trusts that addresses what happens if one spouse dies just a few weeks or days after the other. This survivorship provision could mean that the estates do not have to go through probate separately. However, such a provision would not have applied to the Bushes since the deaths were more than seven months apart. For this reason, it is important for a surviving spouse to act quickly to take care of certain elements of the estate plan. This includes updating the beneficiary designation. If this is not updated and the spouse was named as beneficiary, the asset will pass back to the estate and have to go through probate.

A qualified disclaimer can be a useful tool. This allows a surviving spouse to waive the right to take possession of some assets so that they pass to the next level beneficiary.

An attorney may be able to assist a person in planning for these types of contingencies. People should keep in mind that even if they are young and healthy, an accident could mean that a couple dies within a short time of one another. The provisions made will vary depending on the couple’s needs and situation. For example, if the couple has minor children, they will need to make sure a guardian is named in both their wills. People may also want to consider documents that appoint people to take over medical and financial matters if they are incapacitated.