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Picture of a house in the fall with a treeMany homeowners, as they get older, convey their real estate to family members and retain a life estate. When they create a life estate deed they no longer are the sole owners of the real estate and will then own what is known as a life estate interest, and the person or persons they conveyed the real estate to will own what is known as remainder interest. The owner or owners of the remainder interest only obtain full title ownership to the property on the date of death of the owner of the life estate interest.  When owners of life estate interests are still living, they are responsible for expenses such as real estate taxes, insurance, repairs, and maintenance and upkeep of the real estate. Sometimes the owners of the remainder interests will contribute their own funds, if the life estate tenant is no longer able to afford the upkeep and expenses, or is unable because of physical or cognitive decline.

The insurance company denied coverage for the loss of the real estate because the niece was not the named insured on the policy. 

Transfer on death deeds, which Massachusetts does not have, are similar to life estate deeds only that on the date of death full ownership transfers to the person or persons named to receive the property.  One of the main differences of a transfer on death deed is that the property owner retains full ownership until the date of death, unlike the split life estate interest/remainder interest ownership of a life estate deed. There was an interesting Minnesota Appeals Court case decided in February, Strope-Robinson v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Company,  Case No. 20-1147, regarding insurance coverage on a transfer on death deed.  The decedent in this case had homeowners insurance on the property in his name alone.  On the date of his death his niece, to whom he transferred the real estate, did not obtain insurance in her name.  A few days later his former wife burned down the house.  The insurance company denied coverage for the loss of the real estate because the niece was not the named insured on the policy.  The administrator of the estate sued the insurance company, but the court took the side of the insurance company.

This case brings up an important issue of continuous insurance coverage in case of any type of loss with a life estate deed.  Check with your insurance agent or company for their policies and requirements for named insureds with life estate deeds, and continuing coverage when the life tenancy ends.  Perhaps the insurance company may require that the remainder owners be on the policy as additional insureds.  The remainder interest owners being on the policy as additional insureds would also ensure that if the life tenant owner failed to continue coverage, they would be notified and could take action to maintain coverage on the property.

Nour Elkhattaby Strauch, Age-Friendly Program ManagerNour Elkhattaby Strauch, Age-Friendly Program ManagerThis October marks one year since the launch of LifePath’s Age- and Dementia-Friendly Communities Project in Franklin County and the North Quabbin. This initiative, which is based on the age-friendly community model created by the World Health Organization and administered in the United States by AARP, seeks to help make our communities more aware and more supportive of the needs of older adults as they age. People of all ages benefit from the adoption of policies and programs that make neighborhoods walkable, feature transportation options, enable access to key services, provide opportunities to participate in community activities, and support housing that’s affordable and adaptable. Well-designed, age-friendly communities foster economic growth and make for happier, healthier residents of all ages.

map of age-friendly process

By joining the Age-Friendly Communities Network, creating an age-friendly environment is now the common goal of hundreds of towns across the nation and the world. And while it is important for any community to listen and respond to its older residents’ needs, that fact is even more important in a region like Franklin County and the North Quabbin where older people face many barriers to aging independently. Even before the challenges brought on by the pandemic, many elders in our region struggled with housing, lack of adequate transportation, social isolation, and other issues. Moreover, older adults represent a larger share of our population compared with state and national averages, exceeding 30% in some towns.

Fortunately, the region is also home to many organizations and groups who are providing services to elders, advocating for healthy aging, and determined to make this a great place for people of all ages. These include senior centers; councils on aging; the Area Agency on Aging, LifePath; Village programs; local nonprofits; and others. Throughout this first year in our age-friendly process, these partners have helped us tremendously in spreading awareness about age- and dementia-friendly practices and building a regional age-friendly coalition.

To date, we have engaged with almost two-thirds of the 30 select boards in the region, resulting in many more area towns receiving the age-friendly designation from AARP. In addition to the 11 towns already enrolled (Deerfield, Sunderland, Conway, Montague, Greenfield, Athol, Whately, Wendell, New Salem, Orange, and Leyden), the towns of Erving, Leverett, Colrain, Bernardston, Warwick, Northfield, Petersham, and Shutesbury have also submitted letters of application to AARP to join the age-friendly network.

Age Friendly Comparison

More importantly, these towns are now collaborating with each other in approaching the next steps of the project, starting with a region-wide age-friendly needs assessment. This data collection serves several purposes. A successful assessment will help us hear directly from local elders to identify areas of need and opportunities for improvement. The data can also help us establish standards to evaluate our progress, and will be our guide in creating an age-friendly action plan for Franklin County and the North Quabbin.

The age-friendly needs assessment includes different methods of hearing from older residents. The first method is a survey that will be available both online and through the mail. This survey has been uniquely created for our region by representatives from different communities in Franklin County and the North Quabbin, whom we met with twice last month in a virtual workgroup. We will also be organizing a series of focus groups and listening sessions for different target populations, and reaching out to traditionally marginalized elders. We will be launching our needs assessment this fall. Please reach out to me if you would like to learn more or to participate in this process.

In addition to our progress on the age-friendly part of the project, we have been engaging with the community around the needs of people living with dementia, and the ways we can better support them and their caregivers. The stigma that still surrounds dementia prevents older adults from seeking help and support on the individual level, and also prevents us from appreciating the severity of the issue and addressing it. That is why community education around dementia has been and will continue to be a significant part of our work.

So far, we have organized 6 free workshops that were attended by over 160 people, mostly older adults. These programs have been hosted by a variety of local organizations, including the North Quabbin Community Coalition, the Greenfield Public Library, The Western MA Medical Reserve Corps, and GCC’s OASIS. We also have dementia-friendly programs in the coming weeks in collaboration with the Northfield Senior Center and the Bernardston Senior Center. Please let me know if you are interested in participating in an upcoming workshop or if your organization would like to host an age- or dementia-friendly program.

As we move ahead with this age-friendly process, I look forward to more collaboration on healthy aging in our area. In many cases, the challenges and risks that can deter a small town from taking meaningful action can be mitigated when working with other towns. At the same time, towns that have found unique solutions to their challenges can be celebrated and used as a model.

For more information, to sign up for our newsletter, or to get involved in the Age- and Dementia-Friendly project, please contact me anytime at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (413) 829-9274.

Left to right: MM volunteer Marvin Kelley, MM Program Director Ceil Moran, MM volunteer Tracey Kuklewicz, MM volunteer Carol Ball, MM Program Office Assistant Audrey Stockwell, MM volunteer Ted PenickLeft to right: MM volunteer Marvin Kelley, MM Program Director Ceil Moran, MM volunteer Tracey Kuklewicz, MM volunteer Carol Ball, MM Program Office Assistant Audrey Stockwell, MM volunteer Ted PenickSeptember marked the 30th year that the Massachusetts Money Management Program (MMMP) has been helping adults over 60, and adults living with a disability, maintain their independence. Without the program, many individuals would face food insecurity, financial exploitation, eviction, and premature institutionalization. 

Ceil Moran has been the Program Director for LifePath’s Money Management program for almost six years, after leaving a job of 20 years in the mental health field. “I was ready for a change. I was attracted to the Money Management program due to my experience with managing previous clients’ Social Security Administration (SSA) funds as their representative payee. I felt energized as part of my position would be to grow all facets of the program,” recalls Ceil.

“My mother’s Money Management volunteer has been managing her finances/checkbook for years. She is amazing. Very thorough and very caring . . . a calm presence for Mom and I’m sure for many others.”

Ceil’s duties include volunteer recruitment, training and management, staff supervision, outreach to the greater community to ensure they know about the program, collaboration with LifePath staff and other community partners, and making certain the program is following MMMP’s requirements as well as the SSA’s.

“[Ceil is] very good at what she does and her work has literally allowed her clients to stay in their homes longer,” says Attorney Pamela E. Oddy, P.C. Pamela has worked with Ceil to help mutual clients stay independent.

“LifePath’s Money Management program, co-sponsored by Massachusetts Home Care and the Executive Office of Elder Affairs, promotes and prolongs independent living for individuals over 60 who are at risk because of a challenge in managing their finances. We accomplish this by training volunteers to visit elders’ homes to help with balancing checkbooks, sorting bills, developing a household budget, monitoring income and expenses, writing checks for the client to sign, and developing debt repayment plans. We also are representative payees for a small group of people [who have services through] LifePath. As a representative payee, LifePath manages SSA financial benefits for people whom a medical professional has deemed at risk of harm due to their inability to manage their personal finances. We serve all of Franklin County and the towns of Athol, Petersham, Phillipston and Royalston. All elders over 60 are eligible for services and, for most, the service is free, while for some there is an affordable fee,” explains Ceil.

Of course, LifePath’s Money Management program could not exist without its volunteers devoting individual time and effort supporting their neighbors in our communities. “Currently we have 17 active volunteers and they are the soul of the program with their dedication, hard work, and oftentimes going beyond for their clients,” says Ceil. Initially, volunteers are trained in Money Management program policies and procedures and attend quarterly meetings both for training, updates, and, most importantly, to mingle with other Money Management volunteers for support, shared experiences, and camaraderie.

“We are always looking for volunteers as we have a waiting list of individuals needing our services. There is a volunteer application on our website (LifePathMA.org). We have opportunities to directly work with clients, help out in the office, and serve on the Money Management Advisory Board,” says Ceil. Once applications are received, a CORI will be completed and three references will be contacted. Upon completion of the Money Management program’s training, the volunteer will be matched with a client, based on preferences such as residence location, smoking/ non-smoking, etc. She explains that “while experience is not necessary, we look for volunteers who are excited to help out fellow community members, are somewhat flexible, know how to balance a checkbook, and most importantly, have a willingness to honor people’s personal choices about money even if those choices are different from the ones we would make. Our goal is to make this a success for both the volunteer and the consumer. We have volunteers who have been volunteering for 10 years or longer—come join our fabulous team!”

LifePath’s Money Management Program assisted a 98-year-old veteran facing foreclosure from his home with facilitating an agreement for the elder to remain in his home until recently, when he passed at the age of 101.  

“Often, the Money Management volunteer is the only person visiting the client a few times a month and we have been successful with proactively supporting clients by advocating for necessary in-home services in order for the individual to remain in their home. Due to a volunteer’s observation and the Money Management program’s auditing process, we discovered that a client was feeling bullied by a family member and therefore giving them money out of fear of reprisal. An investigation confirmed our suspicions and supports were put in place to aid the person in feeling safe,” says Ceil. Also, during the pandemic, Money Management volunteers continued checking in by phone and meeting clients outside whenever possible. Some volunteers continued meeting the needs of clients by making home visits with PPE protection.

The daughter of a former client wrote a letter to Ceil this summer, saying, in part, “I just want to take this opportunity to thank you personally for the outstanding care she has gotten from everyone at LifePath . . . [her Money Management volunteer] has been managing her finances/checkbook for years. She is amazing. Very thorough and very caring . . . a calm presence for Mom and I’m sure for many others.”

If you are looking for a rewarding experience where you know you are needed and are interested in doing good for a person in your community, then LifePath’s Money Management program might be for you! Also, if anyone thinks the program might be of assistance to them or wants more information, please contact Ceil directly by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at 413-773-5555 or 978-544-2259, X2329.

Antonio Marcano with his mom, Carmen SantiagoAntonio Marcano with his mom, Carmen Santiago“The AFC program helped us a lot, especially with this pandemic we're still struggling with, we know they're there for us . . . when we need something, a meeting, anything . . . it's just been a blessing,” says Carmen Santiago, 56.  Carmen and her son, Raul “Antonio” Marcano, 23, live together in Amherst, Massachusetts.

LifePath’s Adult Family Care (AFC) program provides care and support in a home environment for older adults and people with disabilities who are age 16 and older and who have daily personal or medical care needs. Caregivers can include members of the individual’s own family (excluding their spouse, a parent of a minor, or a guardian) or an individual wanting to enhance their life by caring for a person in need. Caregivers receive a tax-exempt stipend. Also, initial and ongoing support and training is provided by LifePath’s nurses and social workers.

The AFC program is great, and I just hope that a lot of people can reach out and benefit from it.

Anyone who has an extra room and the ability to provide a caring, safe environment and personal-care assistance may be eligible to host.  The host family or individual caregiver provides a private room, meals, and assistance with activities such as dressing, bathing, medication management, and transportation to medical appointments, depending on an individual’s particular needs. Being part of a host family’s household gives individuals an opportunity to socialize, participate in family activities, and stay connected to their community. 

Antonio, an individual with autism spectrum disorder and ADHD, first heard about the AFC program from his Vocational Coordinator, Crystal Cartwright, when he was attending Amherst-Pelham Regional High School.  At the time, Carmen was thinking about Antonio’s future, wanting to do what was best for him, and worrying about what would happen if she wasn’t around.  Joining the AFC program helped her in that process.

Now Carmen encourages others to “apply, apply, apply because it's the best for families. If you're looking out for your child it’s important as they can really benefit from it.  Anyone who has a disability should really look into it.”

Carmen says she helps Antonio with “everything including making appointments, hygiene, clothes, tasks, just pretty much everything.”  

Antonio’s older sister Priscilla Rosado often checks in to make sure they are ok.  Antonio says his sister “plays a lot of roles in life.  She's a mother and she works full-time for the school system in Holyoke.”  Priscilla is also going back to school for her Bachelor’s degree (she already has an Associate’s degree).  

Carmen says Priscilla always tells her “if you did it with two children, I can with one,” referring to Carmen making it work as a single mom.  

“I am a single mom, I raised two children on my own.  And it's funny because you know, it was hard.  It was hard for me to take care of her.  I wasn't working so I had to go on welfare.  So, I got situated and then I went and I got into a full-time job, and I just kept, you know, pursuing what I needed to do to take care of my family,” says Carmen, who was born in Puerto Rico and grew up in Northampton before attending college and pursuing a career in administrative work.

Antonio received a certificate from Westfield State University after high school and has worked at Big Y and volunteered at the Amherst Survival Center.  He wanted to pursue a career in professional wrestling but realized that it's “too rough” and he didn’t have the professional connections to get his foot in the door.  He enjoys video gaming, both “old school games” and the newer ones he is learning.

“People with disabilities and special needs, they just want to live a normal life like everyone else. Like I say, they want to volunteer at the Survival Center and they can if they’d like to, which I've done in the past . . . you know, just trying to help, help, help the Earth get greener, we'll help this planet get in the best shape of its life,” says Antonio.  “When I hear about something happening in the world, I want to tell those people who went through that incident, there's a light at the end of the tunnel. That bad situation is going to be over soon . . . I like that way of thinking. You can't lose hope,” he explains.

Helping people like Antonio remain vital members of the community is the AFC program’s goal.

“The AFC program is great, and I just hope that a lot of people can reach out and benefit from it.  It's not just [great] because of the money, it's because they're there to help you,” says Carmen.

To learn more about the AFC program, please call LifePath at 413-773-5555, X1230 or 978-544-2259, X1230 to speak to a Resource Consultant, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Barbara Bodzin, Executive DirectorBarbara Bodzin, Executive DirectorThis year, the world has seen even more extreme weather events.  In Western Massachusetts and the Northeast, we have not had to experience the devastating forest fires that are still burning, or natural events such as earthquakes, that have happened in other parts of the U.S. and the world.  While we are fortunate in that way, we’ve still seen severe storms that have done major damage, interrupted service, caused flooding, and have even taken lives.

Floods are often underestimated, and have killed more people in the United States than other types of severe weather.  Flash floods are fast and unforgiving, and can move boulders the size of cars, rip out swaths of trees, and destroy buildings and bridges.  A flash flood is a rapid rise of water from heavy rain, snow melt, dam failure, etc., which travels along low areas damaging everything in its path.  

Flash floods are fast and unforgiving, and can move boulders the size of cars, rip out swaths of trees, and destroy buildings and bridges.

With any weather event, it is always important to be prepared.  Here are some tips from weather.gov regarding flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, microbursts, and severe storms: 

  • Are you in a low area with greater flood potential?  If so, be extra alert for flood watches and warnings.
  • Make sure that your homeowners’/rental insurance covers flooding or water damage.
  • Store important papers and personal information in a fireproof safe or safety deposit box.
  • Create an evacuation plan before flooding happens, which includes having a safe place to go as well as a planned evacuation route. 
  • Determine a meeting place should members of your household get split up. 
  • Make sure your evacuation route has accounted for potential flooding on the roads.
  • Keep your car fueled up and have an emergency auto hammer inside to break the windows in the event you need to escape. 
  • Store drinking water in food-grade containers as there may be service interruptions, or contaminated water supplies. 
  • Get a NOAA weather radio/battery powered radio to keep on hand as well as backup batteries. Check the websites of your local National Weather Service office and local government/emergency management office to find out what type of emergencies could occur and how you should respond.
  • Buy supplies before the hurricane/storm season and keep a stock of food which can be easily transported and doesn’t require cooking or refrigeration, such as nuts and protein bars.
  • Keep first aid supplies on hand, as well as necessary prescription medications. 
  • Have a charged battery pack for your phone as well as a charging cable, along with a flashlight.
  • Purchase emergency supplies ahead of time, rather than waiting for the pre-storm rush. 

During a hurricane:

  • If you are not ordered to evacuate, take refuge in a small interior room, closet, or hallway.  Put as many walls between you and the outside as you can.  Stay away from windows, skylights, and glass doors. 
  • If the eye of the storm passes over your area, there will be a short period of calm.  Remember that at the other side of the eye, the wind speed rapidly increases to hurricane-force winds coming from the opposite direction.

During a flood:

  • If you are advised to evacuate, do so immediately, bringing necessary supplies and personal documents.
  • Do not venture through flooded waters on foot or in a car as the rate of flow can be deceptive and debris carried in the flood can be hidden below the surface.  Vehicles can be swept away in 18-24 inches of water.
  • Move to higher ground.

Many of us are fortunate, where we live, to not be impacted by severe weather events very often.  Still, it is always a good idea to be prepared, as recent storms have proved.  It’s helpful to have a disaster supply kit ready, just in case.  Here are some items to include:

  • Water supply: 1 gallon per person per day
  • Food that won’t spoil, and doesn’t need refrigeration or cooking
  • One change of clothing per person
  • One blanket/sleeping bag per person
  • First aid kit
  • Prescription medications
  • Emergency tools
  • Battery powered emergency NOAA radio
  • Portable radio
  • Flashlight & extra batteries
  • Extra set of car keys
  • Cash & credit card
  • ID & important documents
  • Map of the local area
  • Battery pack and charging cable for mobile phone
  • Mobile phone
  • Pet supplies including water, food, a pet carrier, and any medications

Other ways to be proactive include removing clutter and other tripping hazards from walkways, stairs, and doorways in the event that the power does go out and you need to exit the home in the dark or with a flashlight. Older adults might consider taking a balance class which can help with the ability to evacuate in an emergency. 

LifePath’s Healthy Living Program offers a workshop to help older adults reduce their risk of falls.  “A Matter of Balance-Managing Concerns About Falls” has been shown to significantly reduce the fear of falling in those who take the workshop, as well as to increase their sense of control over potential falls.  For more information, call Healthy Living Program Manager Andi Waisman at 413-773-5555 x2297 or 978-544-2259 x2297, or email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

You can find more weather preparedness information here.