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Attorney Lisa L. HalbertAttorney Lisa L. Halbert, Northampton, 413-584-1287A friend of mine recently referred to estate planning attorneys as “professional pessimists.” As a self-described cheerful person, it stung a bit to be called a pessimist. But while the remark wasn’t personal, it was accurate. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that we estate planning attorneys would do well to consider our “pessimism” a vitally important part of our profession.

It’s true, we ask clients hard questions. We ask about illness, we ask about end-of-life, we ask about finances, family relationships, hopes, dreams, and expectations. Then, we work to plan for preferences and likely circumstances, while simultaneously trying to anticipate and plan for the unexpected.

A properly drafted Durable Power of Attorney document is one of the most important elements of estate planning. New clients often tell me they do not want Durable Powers of Attorney, because all their assets are jointly owned. While joint ownership of assets is sometimes desirable in estate planning, such designations do not replace the authority of a Durable Power of Attorney, which allows for transfers during lifetime.

Consider this common pattern: Two spouses are married and own their home. They want their estate plan to provide for the survivor between them, and then for their children. They also want to avoid spending their savings on end-of-life care. One spouse is older and ill, with the other spouse providing care for the first. They ask for Wills leaving all their assets to each other.

But I, now a Proud Professional Pessimist, must protect them by playing the “what if” game. What if the older spouse needs a nursing home? What if the younger spouse happens to die first? Without the proverbial “crystal ball” to tell us exactly what will happen and when, we run the risk that either or both spouses may require expensive (and potentially long-term) care in a nursing home setting, thereby jeopardizing assets they had hoped to leave behind for their children.

In a situation like this, the flexibility of the Durable Power of Attorney document is invaluable. The Agent named in a Durable Power of Attorney has the ability to transfer any and all assets, including the spousal home. Additionally, a properly drafted Durable Power of Attorney will allow the Agent to act quickly and in real time, as specific needs arise. Depending on each unique situation, this may mean transferring assets to or away from a spouse with a terminal illness, or in some cases transferring assets directly to children or loved ones.

These procedures are not appropriate for every situation, and naming an Agent to take charge of family assets requires very careful consideration. But when illness or infirmity strikes, and minds or bodies might no longer be capable, the Durable Power of Attorney document offers important protections.

Attorney Lisa L. Halbert practices law with the regional firm of Bacon Wilson, P.C. Lisa focuses her practice on all aspects of asset protection, including estate, tax, and long-term care planning, together with matters related to trusts and estates, probate, guardianship, and conservatorship. Lisa works primarily from Bacon Wilson’s Northampton location, and may be reached at 413-584-1287, or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The views expressed in this column represent general information. To address your particular and specific needs, consult your own attorney. If you need help with referral to an attorney, contact the Franklin County Bar Association at (413) 773-9839 or the Worcester County Bar Association at (978) 752-1311. Elder law resources may be found through the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, Massachusetts Chapter, at massnaela.com or 617-566-5640.

Community Legal Aid (CLA) provides legal services free to people age 60 and older for civil legal matters with an emphasis on access to health care coverage (MassHealth and Medicare) and public benefits, as well as tenants’ rights. A request for legal assistance can be made by phone at 413-774-3747 or toll-free 1-855-252-5342 during their intake hours (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. and Wednesday from 1:30 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.) or any time online by visiting www.communitylegal.org.

Poet's Seat team at the 2018 Meals on Wheels WalkathonPoet's Seat team at the 2018 Meals on Wheels WalkathonFor the past 10 years, Poet’s Seat Health Care Center has consistently appeared on lists of walkers and supporters of LifePath’s annual Meals on Wheels Walkathon, now in its 27th year.

“We and our residents look forward to joining the Walkathon again in 2019,” shared Poet’s Seat Health Care Center walkathon team member and Human Resources Director Marjorie Huslander, as they gear up for the April 27th event.

They appreciate the service LifePath’s Meals on Wheels provides and are happy to support fundraising efforts. Plus, employees have a competitive spirit, so capitalizing on that has been helpful and fun. She also points out that this support of elders feels like a true extension of their own philosophy of providing care at Poet’s Seat Health Care Center, and it brings awareness to the needs of many in the community while offering an opportunity to contribute.

“This support of elders feels like a true extension of their own philosophy of providing care at Poet’s Seat Health Care Center.”

At LifePath, we are fortunate, year after year, to have dedicated teams like the one from Poet’s Seat Health Care Center return to participate in our largest fundraiser of the year.

Join Poet’s Seat Health Care Center and the other 35 teams we will welcome back this year by forming your own team to fundraise in support of our Meals on Wheels and congregate dining centers.

More information and pledge forms may be found online.  For question, please contact Carol Foote, Development Director, at 413-773-5555 x2225 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Laurie DeskavichLaurie DeskavichDecluttering and downsizing can be overwhelming. Whether it’s to move from a family home to a small apartment, into an assisted living facility, or for some other reason, the task at hand can be challenging for all those involved.

Q: When I want to declutter my home or helped a loved one, where do I begin?

A: It is important to recognize that although this task is necessary, it can be emotionally and physically draining. Remember that there may be items that you or your loved one cherish and need to keep. Start slow, and be respectful of everyone’s feelings during the process.

Begin by identifying your possessions into categories, such as:

  • Keep
  • Donate
  • Sell
  • Discard

Have a system for identifying which category each item belongs in. This is also a perfect time to designate or give items to loved ones.

“Start slow and be respectful of everyone’s feelings during the process.”

The Family Care Alliance at www.caregiver.org encourages those helping another with the process to “be patient and allow time at this stage for your [loved one] to talk about memories, to reminisce about family activities or relatives no longer with you, to acknowledge emotions. This can be a nice opportunity for you both to remember the stories and incidents that are part of your history and that make each family unique.”

Decide what paperwork is important to keep, and shred what is no longer relevant. Pack photos and go through them at a later date, as this takes time and may be emotional.

Then begin the process of donating, selling and discarding the items. There may be items you wish to have appraised if the value is not known. You may want to contact estate sale companies or consignment shops, or hold a yard sale to sell items. Contact local charities for them to pick the items you wish to donate.

People who feel overwhelmed by clutter and do not know where to begin may not be ready for the steps outlined above. Fortunately, there are programs available to help people feel more ready to declutter. For local resources, reach out to the Information & Caregiver Resource Center at LifePath: call 413-773-5555 or 978-544-2259, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or visit LifePathMA.org.

The Trocks perform "The Dying Swan"Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo will share their passion for dance

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, or “The Trocks,” have taken a playful approach to classical ballet since 1974. An all-male company, the Trocks have reveled in playing with gender roles and identity over the last 40+ years. One part parody and one part loving homage, The Trocks simultaneously honor the traditions of ballet with high-level performance while also poking fun at the conventions that define ballet. They will be coming to the area in preparation for a performance at the UMass Fine Arts Center on Tuesday, April 2, and have added a community workshop and dinner specifically for local LGBT elders while they are here.

Hillary Rathbun of the UMass Fine Arts Center (FAC) helped make the connection between the Trocks and Rainbow Elders. “When the FAC learned about the strong LGBT elder community here in the Pioneer Valley, we asked the Trocks if they would hold a workshop and dinner with the community, to be led by the Trockadero's ballet master. LifePath’s Rainbow Elders was the perfect group to facilitate the workshop.”

On Monday, April 1, The Trocks’ Raffaele Morra, Ballet Master, will lead a movement workshop with a ballet flavor. Dance training is not necessary, but participants should be willing to do their best to move around. Frequent breaks will be given and seating will be available for observers. Please wear comfortable clothing that will allow movement to the floor and back up. The Trocks’ version of Anna Pavlova’s 1905 dance “The Swan” will be taught -- a piece of dance history with a comic touch!

Following the workshop, please join us for a community dinner with Mr. Morra (attendance at workshop not necessary).

All attendees of the workshop or dinner will also be invited to the concert on Tuesday, April 2, 7:30 p.m. at the UMass Fine Arts Center Concert Hall, as special guests of the Trocks!

Space is limited! Click here to register, or call 413-773-5555 x1242.

There is no charge for this event, but donations are welcome and will be used to cover expenses for this and future Rainbow Elders events. The workshop and dinner are funded in part by the Expeditions program of the New England Foundation for the Arts, made possible with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, with additional support from the six New England state arts agencies. LifePath also thanks Rockridge Retirement Communities, The Arbors, University of Massachusetts Fine Arts Center, Les Ballets Trockadero De Monte Carlo, and host Greenfield Senior Center for their support of this event.

LGBTIQA : L=Lesbian, G=Gay, B=Bisexual, T=Transgender, I=Intersex, Q=Questioning and Queer, A = Asexual, Aromantic, Agender, and Allies

Meet Meals on Wheels Driver Jane Dutcher

Bev Jane 1Jane Dutcher arrives with a hot meal for Bev Gale, sharing a warm smile between them.On an early winter’s day, Jane Dutcher of Bernardston heads out to a Meals on Wheels volunteer driver pickup point to collect several electric thermal bags of hot, prepared meals and coolers filled with cold milk and bread. She packs up her car to deliver each meal to an elder on her route that winds through the main drags and back roads of Gill, Northfield, and Bernardston, sometimes dipping into the edges of Leyden and Greenfield.

Jane has been a volunteer with the Meals on Wheels program at LifePath for over 15 years. After raising four children with her husband and retiring from a career as a computer programmer, Jane got started with the encouragement of another volunteer driver. “I remarked in front of the wrong person that I had to find something to do,” she says, “that staying home and not having an occupation wasn't my forte, and that person worked on me to volunteer to drive.”

Jane generally sees between eight and 23 people on her route. “The number goes up and down,” she says. “Some people are on because they had a surgery and they need the service until they get their strength back and are able to do things for themselves again. Some people are not ever going to get off that way. Some people leave because they go to a nursing home.”

These past 15 years, one constant in Jane’s weekly service has been the smiling face of Bev Gale of Bernardston. When Jane arrives at Bev’s house, Bev’s daughter opens the door to usher her in. Bev sees Jane, and the warmth of the connection between them fills the front room where Bev sits in her wheelchair. “I love her,” says Bev. “She’s so smart.”

Bev Jane 2Jane hands Bev a meal that is still hot from the kitchen and a cold pack with bread and milk.“She likes the lasagna, but she loves Jane,” Bev’s daughter chimes in. “It's nice that mom gets a hot meal, and she has a friend. [Jane] brings a smile to her face.”

Bev, in her 80s now, says she was about 40 when she got the wheelchair. In time she also became involved with Franklin County Home Care (now called LifePath), so that when her home health aide could no longer be there for lunchtime, Bev was able to sign up to receive Meals on Wheels five days a week. Jane is her driver on two of those days.

“On the days that Jane comes,” says Bev’s daughter, “I know that I can go to Greenfield and not hurry, because [I] know that Jane's going to come and bring Mom her meal and she will tell my dogs to be quiet, so I don't worry. I can get down there and back and don't rush.”

Many volunteer drivers find meaning in knowing that for many of the people on their route, the driver may be the only person they see that day - or even that week. Jane says she also finds “the fact that I'm not afraid of their dog or their cat means a lot to them.”

Bev Jane 3Jane always takes a moment to check in with Bev, who looks forward to Jane's visits each week.Bev has three dogs. “Two chihuahuas,” she says, “Leroy and Winnie.” Emma, a good old girl, is a beagle and sheltie mix. Bev also fills her time with reading detective novels, browsing the internet, and putting puzzles together. “I'll go for 500 [pieces]. But I'm thinking about a thousand.”

“We don't do no more thousand-piece puzzles, do we?” says Bev’s daughter. “Sometimes we do.”

“Sometimes we put them back in the box!” says Bev.

The three women laugh together before Jane heads back out and onto her next stop.


A light snow is falling as Jane pulls up to the house where Janet Ross lives. She knocks on the teal-colored door, calling out, “Meals on Wheels!”

Jane at JanetsJane arrives at Janet Ross's house with a hot meal and some time to chat. Janet, in her 60s and wearing a big smile and a purple sweater adorned with snowflakes, opens the door with a warm welcome for Jane. A small, orange-and-white tabby cat sits perched up on a spiral staircase, watching the interaction from a distance.

Jane hands over the meal, which Janet places on her purple walker, and the two women walk into the window-filled dining room to sit down and talk for a bit.

“Every week she comes, knock, knock, knock, knock, ‘Meals on Wheels!’” says Janet. “[Jane] says it loud enough so I know who it is, and always to make sure I'm okay.”

Sitting in the home that belongs to her son, Janet shares that she and her husband have lived here for a few years. When her son invited his parents to move into the spare bedroom, Janet says, “It worked out perfectly, because my rent was going up at the time. My husband was already working seven days a week, and I said, ‘You know what? We don't need this anymore.’”

After 40 years running their own printing business - “from beginning to end, from taking the order, designing it, typesetting it, making the plates and negatives, and my husband would put it on the press; then we would take it, jog it all down, make pads or whatever we had to do, business cards, box it, ship it out” - the couple sold the company and moved from the south coast of Rhode Island to Franklin County, Massachusetts.

Jane Janet 1Inside the warm home and out of the lightly falling snow, Jane hands off the hot meal to Janet.“My caseworker Therese from LifePath came over here,” says Janet, “and she said, according to my income, my age, my disability, that I was eligible for Meals on Wheels and a couple of other things, too. So I grabbed it.”

Janet enjoys the meals. “I'm very thankful because it's always a balanced meal. I would not normally eat like that. Every day is a new, healthy meal.”

Even more so than the meals, Janet says she is impressed with how the drivers show their concern for her wellbeing. “With Jane and with all the people who deliver, they're not just concerned about my health, that I fall down on the ground or something like that, [but] even my mental state, talking to me, ‘How's everything going with you?’ She always drums up a story to make me talk back. I think she wants to see if I'm with it or not.”

Jane Janet 2Janet and Jane share some conversation and laughter before Jane heads back out and on the road with her Meals on Wheels deliveries.Living with family, Janet has others she can rely on, but she knows that not everyone has the same level of support. “My daughters call me every day. I have people to talk to. [Some] people have nobody to talk to. She goes in and that must mean the world to them, just having somebody to talk to, you know? I appreciate it.”

Personally, what she gets out of it as a volunteer, says Jane, is “just the pleasure of knowing that it helps.”

If you’d like to support the Meals on Wheels program at LifePath by giving your time as a volunteer, contact us at 413-773-5555 or 978-544-2259, or visit LifePathMA.org/MealsonWheels.

The 2019 Meals on Wheels Walkathon is a great way to support Meals on Wheels! This community event is set to take place on Saturday, April 27, from 8:30 to 11 a.m., outside LifePath’s main office on the grounds of the Greenfield Corporate Center (101 Munson Street, Greenfield, Mass.). To learn more, make a gift, or sign up as a walker, call Carol Foote, Development Director, at 413-773-5555 x2225 or 978-544-2259 x2225, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or click here.