Who Gets the Frequent Flier Miles? – Inheriting More Than Money, 11/28/2005
Often forgotten in inheritance discussions are other, less tangible, assets such as country club memberships or frequent flier miles. While these items may seem frivolous, to many these memberships can be serious business indeed, and the value of a million frequent flier miles is nearly incalculable.
Frequent flier miles can generally be transferred between individuals as gifts, but some airlines only allow the transfer of awards, tickets purchased using frequent flier miles, rather than miles, meaning that the holder of the miles must buy the ticket for the other person.
While many frequent flier programs have rules against the inheritance of miles by heirs, there have been cases where, upon presentation of a death certificate, the miles have been transferred to heirs. Sometimes these unused miles can go to a good cause. Several airlines, including Continental, Delta and Northwest, have a system allowing miles to be donated to the Red Cross.
Keep in mind that frequent flier mile rules vary widely from airline to airline. Northwest Airlines specifically prohibits the transfer of miles through inheritance, but American Airlines has looser rules. Often the miles can be transferred with a death certificate and a notarized letter from an heir. Every club and company treats these items differently and it’s best to check the rules of the organization before including them in any estate plan.