Question: I have a lot of unused airline miles. Are these transferable at death?
Answer: The rules governing the disposition of airline miles, hotel points, rental car benefits and other travel type programs differ among the various companies. If you look at the Delta airline website for example, it says, “Miles are not the property of any member. Except as specifically authorized in the Membership Guide and Program Rules or otherwise in writing by an officer of Delta, miles may not be sold, attached, seized, levied upon, pledged, or transferred under any circumstances, including, without limitation, by operation of law, upon death, or in connection with any domestic relations dispute and/or legal proceeding.” Other airlines have similar rules. If you do wish to transfer your frequent flyer miles and/or other travel perks to someone, you might consider making direct transfers before your death. You should also confirm that any general power of attorney you put in place specifically authorizes this transfer.
Comment: The airlines that allow transfer at death are specific about who can claim the miles. As far as I can tell, you must be either a “surviving spouse” or mentioned as an heir in the deceased person’s will. There might be a way to get around such a problem by having the miles transferred to someone who is an heir, then ask that heir to issue travel award(s) in your name.
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ABOUT STEVE SHANE
Steve Shane provides strategic counseling to clients in need of estate administration, charitable giving and business continuity planning while minimizing estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer tax exposure. He offers legal guidance to clients on asset protection and the proper disposition of assets in accordance with the client’s objectives, while employing tax planning techniques such as the use of irrevocable trusts, life insurance planning, lifetime gifts and charitable trust. He is also experienced with drafting documents for business planning, the incorporation and application for exemption for Private Foundations and the administration of decedents’ estates.