Can You Inherit Frequent Flyer Miles?

Before his untimely death, Anthony Bourdain spent 250 days per year on the road traveling to far flung cities to share meals with the locals.

His grueling traveling schedule created a potentially significant asset for his estate–his frequent flyer miles.

Bourdain’s will was probated in New York this week. According to The New York Post’s Page Six, he left all of his frequent flyer miles to his ex-wife to “dispose of in accordance to what she believe to be his wishes.”

Frequent flyer miles can be a potentially valuable asset. We spend a lifetime accruing miles from travel and credit card purchases.

What happens to your frequent flyer miles when you die?

Unfortunately the answer is not as simple as including a bequest in your will or completing a beneficiary designation form.

Loyalty reward programs are a contract between you and the airline. You need to review the airline’s contract, and no surprise, each airline’s contract is different. Some contracts are not assignable. Others specify who the beneficiaries would be.

Let’s take a look at at American Airlines’ AAdvantage program terms and conditions. I’m choosing American because my globe-trotting dad (who traveled internationally frequently for work) racked up millions of miles on American before he passed away.

“Accrued mileage credit and award tickets do not constitute property of the member. Neither accrued mileage, nor award tickets, nor status, nor upgrades are transferable by the member…upon death…”

Seems pretty straightforward. Better use up those miles before you die because your heirs won’t be able to take any around the world trips using your miles.

But if you keep on reading, you will see that American does have a heart (at least as far as frequent flyer miles are concerned).

“American Airlines, in its sole discretion, may credit accrued mileage to persons specifically identified in…wills upon receipt of documentation satisfactory to American Airlines and upon payment of any applicable fees.”

So what does this mean for your estate plan if you have significant frequent flier miles on American? Your heir(s) will need to contact American Airlines for a special affidavit form. That form, together with a copy of the death certificate and applicable fee, will enable your heir(s) to receive your miles.

If you inherited a significant number of frequent flyer miles, where would you travel? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail.

Copyright © 2018 by Siobhán Fitzpatrick Kratovil. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

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