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GTY_debbie_reynolds_carrie_fisher_ml_160518_16x9_992-300x169The deaths of Debbie Reynolds and her daughter Carrie Fisher were great losses for entertainment fans.

This duo will always epitomize movies —“Singing in the Rain,” “When Harry Met Sally”— Hollywood memorabilia —Reynolds’ costume collection was unparalleled— and mother/daughter tugs of war— “Postcards From the Edge.”

The double whammy, of course, was that mother Reynolds died within days of daughter Carrie.

It has long been known that, when one spouse of a long marriage dies, the other spouse frequently soon follows.

That these long-wed couples tend to be elderly may account for some of these tragedies.

And then there is what has been labeled “death by heartbreak.”

This phenomena involves the loss, at any age, of someone intensely loved by another—a friend, partner, sibling, or, as in Reynolds’ case, a child.

That powerful loss may play a role in the survivor’s successive death. What does any of this have to do with estate planning?

Most wills or trusts take into consideration the possibility of simultaneous or successive deaths through a “survival” provision.

Under such provision, if a beneficiary dies within, say, 30 or 60 days after the person creating the will or trust (the “grantor”), the beneficiary is treated as if he or she died before the grantor.

Then, the grantor’s assets are distributed, under the will or trust’s directives, to the beneficiary who is “next in line.”

Another will/trust provision addresses the rare possibility that both spouses die simultaneously, such as in a car crash. In this provision, which works best when both spouse’s dispositive schemes are the same, the spouses designate one of them as “surviving” the other for estate distribution purposes.

This designation avoids the confusion of determining which spouses died first, and so which spouse can legally “inherit” from the other.

So, whether you are creating a new estate plan, or reviewing an existing one, your FOS attorney will work closely with you as you consider what type of survival provision, if any, is appropriate for your circumstances.