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Passing of President Bush shows importance of estate planning

Before former President George H. W. Bush passed away, his wife and longtime companion Barbara preceded him in death less than eight months earlier. While some say it is touching that the husband passed away fairly soon after his wife, it serves to highlight the importance of proper estate planning for Louisiana couples.

When both spouses pass away within a short period of time, administration of the estate can become extremely complex. Questions often arise as to the designation of beneficiaries. In some cases, trusts and wills contain timing provisions that affect the probate process. In other cases, the way in which the estate is handled will depend on the amount of time that has passed between the deaths of the two spouses.

For example, suppose the spouse that passed away had a retirement plan naming the surviving spouse as the primary beneficiary and the children as contingent beneficiaries. If the surviving spouse dies before the retirement account funds have been properly rolled over, it may be necessary to go through probate in order to determine whether the retirement fund proceeds go directly to the contingent beneficiaries or whether the proceeds are handled as part of the surviving spouse's estate.

Fortunately, there are estate planning tools that can be used to avoid such circumstances. In a situation where the surviving spouse does not need the funds, it may be possible to bypass the surviving spouse and distribute proceeds directly to the children by using an inherited IRA. However, the rules and laws pertaining to such transactions are very complex, so Louisiana couples may want to seek the advice of an estate planning lawyer.

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