If you’re a frequent traveler, you may have accumulated hundreds of thousands or even millions of frequent flyer miles. The value of these miles may be significant, so it’s important to determine whether you can include them in your estate plan and share them with your loved ones.
Learn your options
Your ability to transfer miles at death (or any other time) is governed by your contract with the airline, which requires you to accept a long list of terms and conditions when you join its frequent flyer program. Most programs make it clear that miles aren’t your property and that you’re not entitled to transfer them during your lifetime or at death. But many programs provide that the airline may transfer miles to authorized persons at their discretion.
For example, American Airlines’ rules state that miles are nontransferable, but that, in the event of death, the airline “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.” Anecdotal evidence indicates that American routinely grants these requests and often waives the fees.
Read the fine print
There are no guarantees, but you can maximize the chances that an airline will honor your wishes by including a provision in your will, leaving your frequent flyer miles to one or more beneficiaries. It may be beneficial to put on your reading glasses and read the fine print of your frequent flyer mile programs. Your attorney can answer questions on how to address your miles (or other odd assets, such as a firearms collection) in your estate plan.