He was the 41st President of the United States. He also served in the Navy, was a successful businessman, and held many other political offices during his life. But George Herbert Walker Bush was also a husband – a loving husband of 73 years to Barbara. Together they had six children and lived a very full life.
Barbara Bush died on April 17, 2018, and her widower, George, died less than 8 months later on November 30, 2018. This phenomenon, sometimes called “broken-heart syndrome” is more common than you may think. When one spouse in a couple that has been together for many, many years dies, the remaining spouse sometimes just cannot go on. They have spent the majority of their life together, and do not know how to live without the other. While the loss of the first parent is very difficult for the couple’s children, the loss of both parents in such a short time span can be devastating for their children and other family members.
What can make this already painful time for family even more difficult is having to handle two estates, rather than only one.
How does this happen? When a spouse dies, his or her Will or Living Trust, typically leaves everything to his or her spouse. Additionally, joint bank accounts, the jointly-owned home, life insurance, and IRAs will all pass to the widow or widower through joint ownership or beneficiary designations. When the surviving spouse then dies very soon thereafter, before having a chance to take further steps, such as probating their late spouse’s Will, adding joint owners or beneficiary designations to accounts, or better yet, transferring assets to his or her own Living Trust, the family is left with having to deal with the results.
The children or other beneficiaries of the couple will need to address and make transfers, first pursuant to the first spouse’s documents or account designations, and then will need to do the same for the second spouse, often leading to at least one, possibly two probate estates, which ends up costing the family more money and time.
When we work with a married couple in preparing their estate plan, we address this possibility of deaths in close succession, or even simultaneously. While this may not happen, you can take steps, utilizing carefully drafted Revocable Living Trusts and purposeful account titling and designation of beneficiaries, for this “just in case” scenario. By doing this planning now, the family will be able to administer the estates or trusts of both spouses in a more streamlined, and cost-efficient manner, which will make their lives easier at an extremely difficult time.
George H. W. Bush and Barbara Pierce met at a Christmas dance as teenagers and theirs became the longest presidential marriage in history. He often spoke of his love for her, and this particular statement may best sum it up: “I have climbed perhaps the highest mountain in the world, but even that cannot hold a candle to being Barbara’s husband.”
Waltz, Palmer & Dawson, LLC is a full-service law firm with various areas of service to assist your business, including: Employment Law, Intellectual Property, Commercial Real Estate, Business Immigration, Litigation and general Business Law services. Individual services include Estate Planning, Wills and Trusts, Probate, Guardianship, Divorce and Family Law, Collaborative Divorce & Mediation.
This article constitutes attorney advertising. The material is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.
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Waltz, Palmer & Dawson, LLC
3701 Algonquin Rd. Suite 300
Rolling Meadows, Illinois 60008
Phone: (847) 253-8800