Answer: Many people have accumulated airline frequent flyer miles. These miles can be worth a lot of money in travel rewards so it would be great if the miles didn’t disappear when a person dies. But with some airline policies, that’s exactly what will happen.
So what steps can you take to help ensure your miles live on? The most important thing you can do is to review the airline policies in question.
Airline Policies Regarding the Transfer of Frequent Flyer Miles
As an example, some relevant policies include:
●American Airlines AAdvantage: “Neither accrued mileage, nor award tickets, nor status, nor upgrades are transferable by the member (i) upon death . . . . However, American Airlines, in its sole discretion, may credit accrued mileage to persons specifically identified in court approved divorce decrees and wills upon receipt of documentation satisfactory to American Airlines and upon payment of any applicable fees.”
●Delta Airlines SkyMiles: “Except as specifically authorized in the Membership Guide and Program Rules or otherwise in writing by an officer of Delta, miles may not be . . . transferred under any circumstances, including . . . upon death. . . . ”
●Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards: “Points may not be transferred to a Member’s estate or as part of a settlement, inheritance, or will. In the event of a Member’s death, his/her account will become inactive after 24 months from the last earning date (unless the account is requested to be closed) and points will be unavailable for use.”
●United Airlines MileagePlus: “In the event of the death or divorce of a Member, United may, in its sole discretion, credit all or a portion of such Member’s accrued mileage to authorized persons upon receipt of documentation satisfactory to United and payment of applicable fees.”
As you can see from certain airlines above, a number of airlines will not allow transfer of miles at death.
Comment: Even if the airline will not allow miles to be bequeathed at death, it still doesn’t hurt to have Will provisions that make your intentions clear. While there is no guarantee that it will work, it is possible that an airline who will not allow for transfer of miles on death may change their policy in the future.
As always, if you have any questions or would like to learn more, please contact Steve Shane at email@example.com or .
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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.
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