Estate Planning and Trusts Blog

Does Having a Will Avoid Probate?

a will means probate
Probate will not be avoided just because you have a Will.

Many people I talk to are shocked to find out that having a Will doesn’t mean you’ll avoid probate. In fact, unless you die with no debt and no assets, a Will makes it very likely your estate will be subject to probate.

So, why have a Will?

If you die without a valid Will, the state decides who gets your stuff. In Florida, that’s covered in Chapter 732 of the Florida statutes. Basically, it says that if you’re not married and have no children, everything goes to your parents; if they’re dead, it goes to your siblings. If you’re married, it goes to your wife and possibly your children (depending on the circumstances).

The statutes don’t address who will be the guardian of your minor children. That will be decided by lawyers and a judge ($$$).

If you create a Will, you can choose who gets your stuff – subject to Florida’s laws mandating how much you have to leave your spouse and restricting who can legally inherit your homestead. You’ll also be able to name who you’d like to serve as your Personal Representative if there is a probate, and who you’d trust to serve as guardians of your minor children.

When would a probate be necessary?

Generally, a probate would be necessary if you die with certain types of assets held in your individual name – such as bank accounts, investment accounts, savings bonds, and real property. No one will be able to access or manage those accounts/assets until a judge declares who is entitled to them.

Unfortunately, in Florida, this usually requires a fairly long, drawn out process involving a lawyer ($$$).

Occasionally a simplified process called Disposition Without Administration can be done without a lawyer, but it still costs over $200 just to file the form with the probate court. Use of this simplified process is very limited – basically it’s used when a person dies with a couple thousand dollars in a bank account, there’s no debt, and the spouse or child wants to be reimbursed for the funeral and medical expenses they paid out of their own pocket.

Is there any way to avoid probate?

Probate isn’t always a bad thing. It provides for the orderly payment of your debts and distribution of your remaining assets. It also legally protects your beneficiaries and Personal Representative from the claims of your creditors. This can be very valuable in second marriage situations, or in any family situation where there could be problems.

But, yes, there are ways to avoid probate and some of them are very simple and inexpensive. The simplest way to avoid probate is to name joint owners or beneficiaries on bank and investment accounts. Joint ownership on real estate will also avoid probate. In Florida, you can also name a beneficiary on your real estate deed (I don’t recommend this except in very limited situations). Creating a revocable living trust and retitling your assets in the name of the trust will also avoid probate.

Is there a downside to naming beneficiaries or joint owners?

Yes, sometimes using these methods without legal advice can create unforeseen problems. If you name beneficiaries or joint owners on all your liquid assets, and then a probate is needed for other assets, there’s no money to pay for the probate or taxes and your house, business, guns, or valuable heirlooms may have to be sold to provide those funds. The assets you left to the joint owner or beneficiary became 100% theirs the minute you died, and they have no legal obligation to share them with anyone or use them for your probate expenses or taxes.

Joint ownership with anyone other than your spouse can also create problems with creditors, divorces, and Medicaid planning.

Additionally, under Florida law, you have to leave your spouse a minimum of 30% of every asset you have any ownership in – even those with beneficiaries and joint owners. If you don’t, your spouse can take it away from the named beneficiaries. And, if you decide to leave your homestead to someone Florida says you can’t leave it to, the state will penalize you and your proposed beneficiary and the judge will distribute the homestead according to the law, not your wishes.

Can I type or handwrite my own Will?

Florida has many laws pertaining to what makes a Will valid. If these laws aren’t followed to the letter, the Will isn’t valid and you’ll be treated as if you died without a Will. So while you could certainly type up something simple, or use a form you find on the Internet, I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’ve personally researched and complied with all the Florida laws.

Florida doesn’t recognize handwritten Wills at all.

Additionally, never write on your original Will. Most of the time, the changes you tried to make won’t be valid, and you could end up making your entire Will invalid.

Other articles you might find interesting:

A Basic Form Doesn’t Work for Estate Planning

Yes, You Should Have a Will

Billionaire Conrad Prebys’s Son Gets $15M after Being Disinherited

Conrad Prebys
San Diego real estate developer and philanthropist Conrad Prebys.

Debra Turner, the longtime live-in partner of San Diego developer and philanthropist Conrad Prebys, has tried to sue the directors of the Conrad Prebys Foundation for their decision to give $15 million to Prebys’ son, Eric, who had been left nothing by Prebys in his estate planning documents.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported in the article “Court fight continues over control of $1 billion Prebys estate,” that in January, a San Diego Superior Court judge dismissed Turner’s suit, holding that she had no legal standing to bring it. She then filed an amended complaint. However, recently the judge dismissed her lawsuit.

The legal fight has kept the estate money from going to the charities favored by Conrad Prebys. During his lifetime, he donated more than $350 million to various organizations – most of them in the San Diego area.

Turner says the issue arises from the foundation board’s decision to disregard Prebys’ wishes and give money to his only child, a physicist at UC Davis, who had been written out of the legal documents in 2014.

“When Conrad made a decision, it was done, and he was adamant about revoking Eric’s gift,” Turner told The San Diego Union-Tribune in 2017.

Prebys died in 2016, and his trust left gifts to twelve individuals and institutions. The bulk of his assets were left to to his foundation to “support performing arts, medical research and treatment, visual arts, and other charitable purposes” consistent with the causes he cared about when he was alive. However, a few months after his death, the foundation directors – five unpaid volunteers handpicked by Prebys – met to consider the next steps. The directors included Turner and Laurie Anne Victoria, a longtime executive with Prebys’ real-estate company. Victoria is also the trustee of the Prebys estate.

According to Turner’s lawsuit, a foundation attorney had warned the directors that Eric might contest the will, and if he won, he could “get it all.” Several weeks later, Eric’s attorney indeed sent a letter to the board, raising questions about Conrad’s mental competency at the time that the trust was amended. Eric also believed that Turner had exerted undue influence on his father’s decisions. Turner denied the allegations. But in December 2016, the other directors authorized a settlement. Eric got $9 million, plus $6 million to cover the estate taxes.

Turner then sued the board members on behalf of the foundation, alleging they had breached their duties to protect the estate’s assets.

Victoria defended the settlement as “the only reasonable decision” to avoid the uncertainty, expense and publicity of litigation with Eric and to begin fulfilling Conrad’s charitable wishes. She said the money represented less than 1% of the overall estate.

Turner is no longer on the board, and in dismissing her suit, Superior Court Judge Kenneth Medel said that, under corporate law, Turner can’t sue on behalf of the foundation because she’s no longer a director and, thus, lacks standing. Although she was a director when she filed the suit, the law requires her to maintain board membership throughout the litigation, according to the decision.

Reference: The San Diego Union-Tribune (March 29, 2019) “Court fight continues over control of $1 billion Prebys estate”

Other articles you may find interesting:

Angelina Jolie Leaving Her Estate to One Child?

Prince’s Estate Battle Drags On

Understanding Your Trust Document

revocable living trust document
Trust documents will never be as easy to read as a novel, but they’ve gotten better!

Forbes’s recent article, “A Beginner’s Guide To Reading A Trust,” says that while many attorneys have tried to simplify trust documents, there’s still some legalese hanging around. Let’s look at a few tips for reviewing your trust.

First, familiarize yourself with the terms in the trust document. There are some basic terms you’ll need to know. Most of this can be found on its first page, such as the person who created the trust. He or she is frequently referred to as the donor, grantor,  settlor, or trustmaker. It’s also necessary to identify the trustee – the person who will hold the trust assets and administer them for the benefit of the beneficiaries.

Next you’ll want to see who the beneficiaries are and then look at the important provisions in the trust document that pertain to how the assets are to be distributed to the beneficiaries. Is the trustee required to distribute the assets all at once to a specific beneficiary, or can she give the money out in installments over time?

It’s also important to determine if the distributions are completely left to the discretion of the trustee, or whether the beneficiary has a right to withdraw the trust assets.  See if the trustee can distribute both income and principal, or just income. What happens at the death of a beneficiary?

Other important provisions to review in your trust document include whether the beneficiaries can remove and replace a trustee, if the trustee must provide the beneficiaries with accountings, and whether the trust is revocable or irrevocable. If the trust is revocable and you’re the grantor (creator), you can change it as often as you’d like – as long as you have mental capacity. If the trust is irrevocable, generally, it’s very difficult to make changes without going to court. Revocable trusts become irrevocable at the death of the grantor. So, if your father was the grantor and he passed away, his trust is now irrevocable.

Finally, you should review the “boilerplate” language, as well as the tax provisions.

Of course, if you have any questions or need help interpreting the terms of your trust document, be sure to talk to your estate planning attorney.

Reference: Forbes (June 17, 2019) “A Beginner’s Guide To Reading A Trust”

Other articles you may find interesting:

Are No-Contest Clauses Valid In Florida?

Naming a Child as Successor Trustee?

Why is an Advance Directive so Important with Dementia?

An advance directive is so important when dementia sets in.
Advance directives are so important when dementia sets in.

The Roanoke Times advises in the recent article “What to do in absence of advance directive” to talk to an experienced elder care attorney when dementia may be an issue with a parent or other loved one. Then ask your physician for a geriatric evaluation consultation for your loved one with a board-certified geriatrician and for a referral to a social worker to assist in navigating the medical system.

Everyone older than 55 should have advance directives in place. That way, if they become incapacitated, a trusted agent can fulfill their wishes in a dignified manner. Think ahead and plan ahead.

As a family’s planning starts, the issue of competence or mental capacity must be defined. A mere diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t necessarily indicate current incompetence or a lack of capacity. At this point, a person still has the right to make a decision—despite family members disagreeing with it. Competency should be re-evaluated after a number of “poor” choices or an especially serious choice that puts the person or others at risk.

A geriatric evaluation consultation will test your loved one’s factual understanding of concepts, decision-making and cogent expression of choices, the possible consequences of their choices, and reasoning of the decision’s pros and cons. If she passes the evaluation, she’s deemed to have the mental capacity to make choices on her own. If she cannot demonstrate competency, an attorney can petition the court for a competency hearing, after which a guardian may be appointed to oversee her affairs.

The time to address these types of issues is before the patient becomes incapacitated. The family should discuss living wills, health care proxies, powers of attorney, and estate planning now with an experienced elder law or estate planning attorney.

Taking these proactive steps can be one of the greatest gifts a person can bestow upon herself and her loved ones – peace of mind. If you put an advance directive in place, it can provide that gift when it’s needed the most.

Reference: Roanoke Times (June 17, 2019) “What to do in absence of advance directive”

Other articles you may find interesting:

Having the “Someday” Talk with Parents

Cognitive Decline Doesn’t Have to Happen

How Can a Collector Leave a Legacy?

An art collector's heirs may not share the love.
An art collector’s heirs may not share the passion.

A few years after Joan Rivers’ death in 2014, her family put hundreds of Joan’s personal items up for auction at Christie’s in New York.

As The Financial Times reported in “Why an art collector’s estate needs tight planning,” a silver Tiffany bowl, engraved with her dog’s name, Spike, made headlines when it sold for thirty times its estimated price. This shows how an auction house can generate a buzz around the estate of a late collector, creating demand for items that, had they been sold separately, might have failed to attract as much attention.

A common problem for some collectors of art and other valuable collectibles is that their heirs may feel much less passionately about the works than the person who collected them.

If you’re a collector, you can gift, donate, or sell during your lifetime. You can also wait until you pass away and then gift, donate, or sell posthumously. If you want to make certain your wishes are carried out or to eliminate family conflicts after your death, you can take the decision out of the hands of your family by placing your valuable collection into a trust.

Your trust will have your wishes documented in the agreement and you can choose the trustees – whether you choose trusted family members or independent advisers. You, as a collector, might like to seal your legacy by making a permanent loan or gift of art to a museum. However, your children or other family members can renege on these agreements if they’re not adequately protected by trusts or other legal safeguards after your death.

Even with a trust or other legal structure put in place to preserve a legacy, the key to avoiding a fight over a valuable collection after your death is to have frank discussions about estate planning with your family well before the reading of the Will or trust. This can ensure that your wishes are respected.

Reference: Financial Times (June 20, 2019) “Why an art collector’s estate needs tight planning”

Other articles you may find interesting:

How To Disinherit A Child

The Importance of Funding Your Trust

Filing Estate Taxes for a Deceased Family Member

Filing personal and estate tax returns is one of the executors jobs.
Filing personal and estate tax returns is one of the executor’s most important jobs.

If you’re the executor (or personal representative) of a loved one’s estate, and they were well-off, you’ll be dealing with several tax issues. The article “How to file a loved one’s taxes after they’ve passed away” from Market Watch gives a general overview of the decedent’s potential tax liabilities.

Winding down the financial aspects of the estate is one of the tasks done by the executor. The executor is identified in the decedent’s Will or appointed by a judge. If the decedent had a revocable living trust or an irrevocable trust, the trust document names a trustee who works in conjunction with the executor.

The executor is responsible for filing the federal income tax returns for the decedent’s personal income (Form 1040) as well as for the income generated by the estate or trust (Form 1041). The estate’s first federal income tax year starts immediately after the date of death. The tax year-end date can be December 31 or the end of any other month that results in a first tax year of 12 months or less. The IRS form 1041 is used for estates and trusts and the estate income tax return is due on the 15th day of the fourth month after the tax year-end.

For example, if a person dies in 2019 and the executor chooses December 31 as the tax year-end, the estate tax return would be due April 15, 2020. An extension is available, but it’s only for five and a half months. In this example, the due date could be extended to September 30.

There’s no need to file a Form 1041 if all of the decedent’s income-producing assets are directly distributed to the spouse or other heirs and, thus, bypass probate. This is the case when property is owned as joint tenants with right of survivorship, as well as with IRAs and retirement plan accounts and life insurance proceeds with designated beneficiaries.

Unless the estate is valued at more than $11.4 million in 2019, no federal estate tax (also known as the “death tax”) will be due.

But the executor needs to find out if the decedent made any large gifts before death. That means gifts larger than $15,000 in 2018-2019 to a single person, $14,000 for gifts in 2013-2017; $13,000 in 2009-2012, $12,000 for 2006-2008; $11,000 for 2002-2005 and $10,000 for 2001 and earlier. If these gifts were made, the excess over the applicable threshold for the year of the gift must be added back to the estate to see if the federal estate tax exemption has been surpassed. Check with the estate attorney or tax professional to ensure that this is handled correctly.

The unlimited marital deduction permits any amount of assets to be passed to a spouse – as long as the decedent was married to a U.S. citizen. However, the surviving spouse will need expert estate planning to pass the family’s wealth to the next generation, without a large tax liability.

While the taxes and tax planning are more complex when significant assets and estate taxes are involved, estate planning is perhaps even more important for those with modest assets as there is a greater need to protect the family and less room for error. An estate planning attorney can strategically plan to protect family assets even when the assets are not so grand.

Reference: Market Watch (June 17, 2019) “How to file a loved one’s taxes after they’ve passed away”

Other articles you may find interesting:

Widowed? What Happens Next?

Why Unmarried Couples Need Estate Planning

 

Are Your Estate Planning Documents Age-Appropriate (Part 2)

Estate planning documents must be appropriate for your age and situation.
Planning ahead may help to protect your home and other assets should one or both of you need care in the future.

In Part 1, we met Joe and Claire, now age 65, and reviewed their need for age-appropriate health care and decision-making documents. We left off with the question, “What planning can Joe and Claire do now to prevent losing everything in the event their health fails?”

The costs of long-term care can be staggering. According to the Genworth 2018 Cost of Care Survey, Florida home health aides can cost, on average, $46,904 per year, based on care provided 44 hours per week and a median hourly rate of $20.50. Nursing home care in Florida, on average, is nearly double that – $97,820 per year for a semi-private room.

What are Joe and Claire’s chances of needing long-term care? According to the Department of Health and Human Services, someone turning 65 today has a 70% chance of needing some type of long-term care services in their remaining years. This means Joe and Claire should be considering how they will pay for that care in the event one or both of them are part of that 70%.

Joe and Claire’s choices include: 1) paying out of their own pocket for care, 2) purchasing long-term care insurance, 3) qualifying for government assistance programs, or 4) any combination of these choices.

By planning early – before there’s a health care crisis – Joe and Claire can take advantage of all three options, yet protect their home and any other cash or assets they wish. This type of asset protection is done using a specially designed irrevocable trust. Only a portion of Joe and Claire’s assets would be transferred to the irrevocable trust, with the remainder either remaining in Joe and Claire’s name, or held in a revocable trust with special provisions for the surviving spouse.

By transferring assets to an irrevocable trust, those assets would not be counted in the future (in most cases, after 5 years) if Joe or Claire needed to qualify for government assistance to help pay for their long-term care. If Joe or Claire is a wartime Veteran, there are additional cash assistance programs available through the Veterans Administration that should be explored as another means to help pay for their care.

To round out the asset protection package, Joe and Claire would also complete their other estate planning documents, such as financial Powers of Attorney, Health Care Advance Directives, and Living Wills. They would also explore purchasing an appropriate long-term care insurance policy in the event one of them needed care sooner than expected.

By planning early, Joe and Claire have the documents and tools in place to protect their home and other assets should one or both of them need care in the future – and there is a 70% chance they will. Joe and Claire have also lessened the emotional and financial stress placed on a family when a health care crisis does happen. They’ve taken care of the heavy lifting with regard to their assets, so their family can just focus on what really matters – making sure they have the best care possible.

Other articles you may find interesting:

Time to Take Over A Parent’s Finances?

Not Your Grandfather’s Senior Community

 

 

Are Your Estate Planning Documents Age-Appropriate? (Part 1)

Estate planning documents must be appropriate for your age and situation.
Estate planning documents must be appropriate for your age and situation.

Twenty years ago, Joe and Claire, age 45 at the time, went on their first vacation without their kids since they were married. They had no estate planning documents in place, and had to scramble quickly to get a simple Will and Power of Attorney to make sure their kids would be taken care of should something happen to them. They owned a home with a mortgage, and had very little in savings.

The Will named a guardian for their minor children, and named a trustee to hold their children’s money in trust until they reached age 21. The Durable Power of Attorney only addressed basic financial issues, naming an agent to act in their place (paying bills, writing checks for the kids’ various activities) in the event they were unable to.

Joe and Claire did not prepare a Living Will, or any type of estate planning document that named another person to make healthcare decisions for them if needed. Their main focus was their children, and making sure the mortgage and other bills were paid if something happened to them while they were away.

Joe and Claire arrived home from their trip perfectly healthy, and the documents they signed sat in a safe deposit box for the next 20 years. Now age 65, Joe and Claire are nearing retirement and have accumulated a nice “nest egg” and just paid off their home.

However, they recently had a friend suffer a near-fatal heart attack and it was a sharp reminder to them of how precious life is. The topic of their Will from 20 years ago came up, and they both agreed it was time for an update.

Joe and Claire now need estate planning documents that address their current age and status – near retirement with substantial savings. The Durable Power of Attorney that worked for their purposes 20 years ago needs a major makeover. Joe and Claire need to consider who will step in and make financials decisions on all of their matters if they are unable to act due to incapacity.

Incapacity can be the result of a disease, like Alzheimer’s, or it could come from a more sudden health event, like a heart attack or stroke. As Joe and Claire grow older, the possibility of a debilitating health event increases. They have more assets than they did 20 years ago, including a number of online accounts that would need to be managed. A generic form is usually not enough to cover the complex issues that arise as we get older, and as we acquire more possessions.

This increasing possibility of a health crisis also sheds light on the need to have their medical wishes properly documented through a health care directive. What type of life-sustaining measures should be undertaken for them? Who will make health care decisions if they are unable to? The natural choice is to choose the other spouse as agent, but what if the other spouse is unable or unwilling to act?

If Joe and Claire haven’t designated their agent through proper legal estate planning documents, then a court may be left to decide for them – an expensive and sometimes lengthy process that can be very stressful on the family.

Another issue that is important to discuss is what type of care should be provided if Joe or Claire need it? Does Joe wish to stay home and receive care there? If so, who should provide that care? Do both of them want to transition to independent living at some point when keeping up a home and yard becomes too much? If the conversation isn’t held while Joe and Claire are healthy, then other family members and friends are left to guess what they would have wanted.

As shown above, age-appropriate estate planning documents that address health care and financial decision-making are critical. The other critical planning concern is what will happen to all of Joe and Claire’s possessions if one or both of them get sick and need substantial care on a long-term basis?

In our next article: What steps can Joe and Claire take to prevent losing everything in the event their health fails?

Other articles you may find interesting:

Are No-Contest Clauses Valid In Florida?

Do I Need to Update My Estate Plan if I Relocate?

Having the “Someday” Talk with Parents

Daughter talking with her parent
Don’t wait too long to have these important conversations with your parents.

The cause of sleepless nights for many baby boomers now comes from worrying about their aging parents instead of their young children. As parents age, it becomes more important to talk with them about a number of “someday” issues, advises Kanawha Metro in the article “Preparing for someday.” As their lives move into the elder years, your discussions will need to address housing, finances, and end-of-life wishes.

Where do your parents want to spend their later years? It may be that they want to move to an active retirement community not far from where they live now, or they may want a complete change of scenery, perhaps in a warmer climate.

One family made arrangements for their mother to take a tour of a nearby senior-living community after their father passed. By showing their mother the senior-living community, they made an unknown, slightly intimidating thing into a familiar and attractive possibility. Because she saw the facility with no pressure, just a tour and lunch, she knew what kind of options it presented. The building was clean and pretty, and the staff was friendly. Therefore, it was a positive experience. She was able to picture herself living there.

Money becomes an issue as parents age. If the person who always handled the family finances passes away, often the surviving spouse is left trying to figure out what has been done for the last five decades. A professional can help, especially if they have had a long-standing relationship.

However, when illness or an injury takes the surviving spouse out of the picture, even for a little while, things can get out of control fast. It only takes a few weeks of not being able to write checks or manage finances to demonstrate the wisdom of having children or a trusted person named with a power of attorney to be able to pay bills and manage the household.

As parents age and their health becomes fragile, they need help with doctor appointments. Having a child or trusted adult go with them to speak up on their behalf, or to explain any confusing matters, is very important.

Having an estate plan in place is another part of the business of aging that needs to be accomplished. It may be helpful to go with your parents to meet with an estate planning attorney to create documents that include a Last Will and Testament, Durable Power of Attorney and advanced health care directive. Without these documents, executing their estate or helping them if they become incapacitated will be more complex, and more costly.

Eliminate a scavenger hunt by making sure that at least two siblings know where the originals of these documents are.

One of the more difficult conversations has to do with end-of-life and funeral arrangements. Where do your parents want to be buried, or do they want to be cremated? What should be done with their remains? What do they want done with their personal belongings? Are there certain items that they want to be given to certain members of the family, or other people they care for?

Finally, who do they want to care for their pets? If there is a family member who says they will take their parent’s pet, can that person be trusted to follow through? There needs to be a Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C so that the beloved pet can be assured a long and comfortable life after their owner has passed.

Yes, these are difficult conversations. However, not having them can lead to far more difficult issues. Knowing what your loved ones wish to happen, and making it enforceable with an estate plan, provides everyone in the family with peace of mind.

Reference: Kanawha Metro (May 29, 2019) “Preparing for someday”

Other articles you may find interesting:

Widowed? What Happens Next?

Pet Trust FAQs: For the Love of Fluffy

Cognitive Decline Doesn’t Have to Happen

Cognitive decline isn't a mandatory part of getting older.
Cognitive decline isn’t a mandatory part of getting older. In many cases, it can be avoided.

For many decades, people assumed cognitive decline was inevitable with advanced age. Medical experts said people stopped making new brain cells as adults, so when we lose cells through injury or deterioration, there are no “spare parts” to replace them. As a result, it seemed logical that cognitive impairment was only a matter of time.

The nagging doubt about this theory was the fact we all know people who remain mentally sharp well into their nineties and even past the age of 100. As it turns out, you were not the only one who might have wondered about the accuracy of the long-held assumption of inevitable age-related cognitive decline. A recent study reveals we can grow new brain cells well past retirement age.

Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute worked together on a study designed to explore this issue. They performed autopsies soon after death on the brains of 28 people ranging in age from 14 to 79. The subjects had all been healthy prior to sudden death. None of them had cognitive decline during their lives.

The researchers examined the hippocampus area of the brain. The hippocampus processes learning and memory and grows new brain cells to replace those we lose through daily attrition. In particular, the scientists looked at the neurons (nerve cells) and blood vessels within the hippocampus.

Although the brains of the older subjects in the study did not form as many new blood cells and their new neurons might not have been able to make as many connections as the brains of the younger subjects, the study revealed a startling fact. The brains of healthy older people continue making new brain cells, just as well as the brains of younger healthy people.

There was no difference in the volume of new brain cells between the younger and older brains. Since the hippocampus does not stop making new brain cells as long as you stay healthy, the researchers concluded many seniors do not suffer cognitive or emotional decline, despite the common assumption to the contrary.

Take-Aways from the Study Findings

Seniors do not get the respect they deserve in American society. One excuse people get for being dismissive of their elders, is the widely held belief that old people become mentally feeble. This research challenges this idea and shows that healthy older people can be just as sharp as people in their youth.

The common belief about seniors having cognitive decline can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. If a person believes cognitive decline is an automatic part of aging, the person might not try to prevent this result. We all know people who suddenly start to act older after they hit a milestone birthday, as if living up to their expectations for a person of that age.

Now that we know there is no such thing as automatic cognitive decline because of age, we can do something about it. You can stay sharp as long as you stay healthy. Keep learning and reading. Study a foreign language. Learn to play a musical instrument. Do word puzzles. Stay socially active and involved in your community. Take a walk every day to get regular physical exercise. Eat nutritious food.

And above all, avoid things that damage brain cells, particularly the hippocampus. Misusing drugs, even prescription ones, drinking too much alcohol and smoking can all damage the hippocampus and cause cognitive decline. If the hippocampus isn’t healthy, you won’t be able to continue making new brain cells as you age.

References:

AARP. “Older Adult Brains Can Grow Thousands of New Cells.” (accessed May 30, 2019) https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2018/older-brains-grow-new-cells.html

Other articles that may interest you:

The Importance of Funding Your Trust

A Solo 401(k) Works for Self-Employed