Savvy Senior: How to Divide Your Personal Possessions Without Dividing the Family

By Jim Miller | April 1, 2024

Dear Savvy Senior,

Do you have any suggestions on divvying up my personal possessions to my kids after I’m gone without causing hard feelings or conflict? I have a lot of jewelry, art, family heirlooms and antique furniture, and four grown kids that don’t always see eye-to-eye on things.

  • Conflicted Parent

Dear Conflicted,

Divvying up personal possessions among adult children or other loved ones can often be a tricky task. Deciding who should get what without showing favoritism, hurting someone’s feelings or causing a feud can be difficult, even for close-knit families who enter the process with the best of intentions. Here are a few tips to consider that can help you divide your stuff with minimal conflict.

Sweating the Small Stuff

For starters, you need to be aware that it’s usually the small, simple items of little monetary value that aren’t mentioned in your will that cause the most conflicts. This is because the value we attach to the small personal possessions is usually sentimental or emotional, and because the simple items are the things that most families fail to talk about.

Family battles can also escalate over whether things are being divided fairly by monetary value. So, for items of higher value like your jewelry, antiques and art, consider getting an appraisal to assure fair distribution. To locate an appraiser in your area, try, or

Dividing Fairly

The best solution for passing along your personal possessions is for you to go through your house with your kids or other heirs either separately or all at once to find out which items they would like to inherit and why. They may have some emotional attachment to something you’re not aware of. If more than one child wants the same thing, you’ll have to make the ultimate decision.

Then you need to sit down and make a list of who gets what on paper, signed, dated and referenced in your will. You can revise it anytime you want. You may also want to consider writing an additional letter or create an audio or video recording that further explains your intentions.

You can also specify a strategy for divvying up the rest of your property. Here are some popular methods that are fair and reasonable:


Take turns choosing: Use a round-robin process where your kids take turns choosing the items they would like to have. If who goes first becomes an issue, they can always flip a coin or draw straws. Also, to help simplify things, break down the dividing process room-by-room, versus tackling the entire house. To keep track of who gets what, either make a list or use adhesive dots with a color assigned to each person to tag the item.


Have a family auction: Give each person involved the same amount of play money or use virtual points or poker chips to bid on the items they want.


Use online resources: For families who want help or live far apart, there are web-based resources like FairSplit.comthat can assist with the dividing process.

For more tips, see “Who Gets Grandma’s Yellow Pie Plate?” at This is a resource created by the University of Minnesota Extension Service that offers a free video and detailed workbook for $12.50 that gives pointers to help families discuss property distribution issues and lists important factors to keep in mind that can help you avoid or manage conflict.

It’s also very important that you discuss your plans in advance with your kids so they can know ahead what to expect. Or you may even want to start distributing some of your items now, while you are still alive.


How to Get ‘Extra Help’ Paying for Prescriptions

Dear Savvy Senior,

Does Medicare offer any financial assistance programs to help seniors with their medication costs? I recently enrolled in a Medicare drug plan, but I take some expensive medications that have high out-of-pocket costs and need some help.

  • Living on a Shoestring


Dear Living,

Yes, there’s a low-income subsidy program called ‘Extra Help’ that assists Medicare beneficiaries on a tight budget by paying for their monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and co-payments related to their Medicare (Part D) prescription drug coverage.

And, thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act that was passed by Congress and signed into law in late 2022, this program has expanded and gotten easier to qualify for in 2024. Even if you’ve applied and didn’t qualify before, you may be eligible now.

The Extra Help benefit is estimated to be worth about $5,300 per year. Currently over 13 million people are receiving this subsidy, but there’s around 3 million more who may qualify for it but don’t realize it.

The amount of financial assistance you would receive depends on your income and assets. If you qualify, you’ll pay no premium or deductible (unless receiving a partial subsidy), and no more than $4.50 for each generic drug or $11.20 for each brand-name drug your plan covers in 2024.

To get the subsidy, your resources must be limited to $17,220 or $34,360 for married couples living together. Bank accounts, stocks, bonds, mutual funds and IRAs count as assets, but your home, vehicle, personal belongings, life insurance and burial plots do not.

Also, your annual income must be limited to $22,590 for an individual or $30,660 for married couples. If you support a family member who lives with you, or you live in Alaska or Hawaii, your income can be higher. In addition, the government won’t count any money if you receive help for household expenses like food, rent, mortgage payments, utilities and property taxes.

How to Apply

There are three ways to see if you qualify and apply for Extra Help: online at; by calling Social Security at 800-772-1213; or by visiting your local Social Security office.

The application form is easy to complete, but you will need your Social Security number and information about your bank balances, pensions and investments. Social Security will review your application and send you a letter within a few weeks letting you know whether you qualify.

If you don’t qualify for Extra Help, you may still be able to get help from a state pharmacy assistance program or a patient assistance program. Visit to search for these programs.

Other Medicare Assistance

If you’re eligible for Extra Help, you may also qualify for help with your other Medicare expenses through your state’s Medicare Savings Program.

State Medicaid programs partner with the federal government, so income and asset qualifications vary depending on where you live. Medicare Savings Programs will pay your entire Medicare Part B premium each month. And in some cases, they may also pay your Medicare deductibles, coinsurance and copayments, depending on your income level. To find out if you qualify, contact your state Medicaid office.

You can also get help through your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), which provides free Medicare counseling in person or over the phone. Visit or call 877-839-2675 to locate a counselor in your area.


How to Tap Underutilized Burial Benefits for Veterans

Dear Savvy Senior,

What types of funeral benefits are available to old veterans? My 83-year-old father, who has Alzheimer’s disease, served during the Vietnam War in the 1960s.  

  • Planning Ahead

Dear Planning,

Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) National Cemetery Administration actually offers a variety of underutilized burial benefits to veterans as well as their spouses and dependents.

Most U.S. veterans (both combat and non-combat) who didn’t receive a dishonorable discharge are eligible for burial benefits. To verify your dad’s discharge, you’ll need a copy of his DD Form 214 “Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty.” If you don’t have it, you can request online at

Here’s a rundown of some of the different benefits that are available to veterans that die a nonservice related death.

Military Cemetery Benefits

If your dad’s eligible and would like to be buried in one of the 155 national or 119 state, territory or tribal-operated cemeteries (see, the VA provides a number of benefits at no cost to the family, including: a gravesite; opening and closing of the grave and perpetual gravesite care; a government headstone or marker; a United States burial flag that can be used to drape the casket or accompany the urn; and a Presidential Memorial Certificate.

If your dad is cremated, his remains will be buried or inurned in the same manner as casketed remains.

But be aware that funeral or cremation arrangements and costs are not taken care of by the VA. They are the responsibility of the veteran’s family, but some veteran’s survivors may be eligible for burial allowances.

The VA also offers a memorial web page called the Veterans Legacy Memorial for any veteran buried in a national, state, territorial or tribal cemetery. This allows families to post pictures and stories of their loved one online as a way to remember and honor their service.

If you’re interested in this option, the VA has a pre-need burial eligibility determination program to help you plan ahead before your dad passes. See or call the National Cemetery Scheduling Office at 800-535-1117.

Private Cemetery Benefits

The VA also provides benefits to veterans buried in private cemeteries. If your dad chooses this option, the VA benefits include a free government headstone or grave marker, or a medallion that can be affixed to an existing privately purchased headstone or marker; a burial flag; and a Presidential Memorial Certificate.

Funeral or cremation arrangements and costs are again the responsibility of the family, and there are no benefits offered to spouses and dependents that are buried in private cemeteries.

Military Funeral Honors

Another popular benefit available to all eligible veterans buried in either a national or private cemetery is a military funeral honors ceremony. This includes an honor guard detail of at least two uniformed military persons, folding and presenting the U.S. burial flag to the veteran’s survivors, and the playing of Taps.

The funeral provider you choose will be able to assist you with all VA burial requests. Depending on what you want, certain forms may need to be completed which are always better to be done in advance.

For a complete rundown of burial and memorial benefits, eligibility details and required forms visit

Burial Allowances

In addition to the burial benefits, some veteran’s survivors may also qualify for a $948 burial allowance and $948 for a plot to those who choose to be buried in a private cemetery. And $231 for a headstone or grave marker allowance. To find out if your dad is eligible or to apply, see

Who Should Be Screened for Lung Cancer?

Dear Savvy Senior,

Who should be screened for lung cancer and how it’s covered by Medicare? I used to smoke but quit many years ago and am wondering if I need to be tested.

  • Just Turned 65


Dear Just Turned,

Even if you haven’t touched a cigarette in decades, you could still be due for an annual lung cancer screening, based on new recommendations from the American Cancer Society (ACS).

The new guidelines state that adults ages 50 to 80 who currently smoke or used to smoke the equivalent of one pack a day for 20 years should get an annual low-dose computed tomography scan (also called a CT scan), no matter how long ago you quit.

ACS guidelines previously said that those who quit 15 or more years ago were in the clear. But new studies have shown that expanding screening eligibility saves lives, even among people who quit smoking years earlier.

Early Detection Saves Lives

Lung cancer is the deadliest cancer in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 234,580 new cases are expected to be diagnosed in 2024, and about 125,070 Americans will die from the disease.

While lung cancer can occur in anyone at any age, cigarette smoking is the top risk factor and is linked to about 80 to 90 percent of lung cancer deaths, and most people diagnosed with the disease are age 65 or older.

What makes lung cancer especially tricky is that it’s often symptomless until it’s at an advanced stage, when it’s harder to treat. Early detection can lead to a 20 to 25 percent improvement in survival rates, resulting in fewer deaths from lung cancer.

But a 2022 report from the American Lung Association found that only 5.8 percent of people eligible for lung cancer screening in the U.S. get screened, and the screening rate is as low as 1 percent in some states.

Screening & Coverage

If you fall into the population eligible for a lung cancer screening, start by speaking with your doctor, even if it’s been a long time since you smoked.

Medicare Part B will cover lung cancer screenings with a low-dose CT scan once a year for people ages 50 to 77 who are current smokers or quit in the last 15 years and have a 20-pack-year history. Patients must have an order from their doctor or health care provider and should not have symptoms of lung cancer.

A low-dose CT scan is a noninvasive test where you lie down and hold your breath while being moved through a doughnut-shaped X-ray machine. The scan takes several X-ray images of the lungs and can help to identify possible abnormalities in the lung tissue.

There are some potential risks with this screening, including the possibility of false positives, which can lead to more scans or invasive procedures. According to the American Lung Association about 12 to 14 percent of lung cancer screening scans will have a false positive, which is about the same rate as with mammograms.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.