Naperville Estate Planning Lawyer Discusses Frequent Flyer Miles

frequent flyer, Naperville estate planning attorneyWhen most people sit down to create an estate plan, they think about their obvious assets, including real estate holdings, automobiles, and cash savings. They will also usually consider more tangible things like furniture, jewelry, and artwork. More savvy individuals may remember to address digital assets like Amazon Kindle libraries, Steam accounts, and iTunes downloads.

As an estate planning attorney, I can assure you that it is often difficult for the average person to remember every asset they own during the estate planning process. The tragic story of a celebrity chef, however, recently raised the issue of an asset that is commonly overlooked in many estate plans: frequent flyer miles.

A Heartbreaking Death

Last month, celebrity chef and travel documentarian Anthony Bourdain was found dead in a hotel room at age 61. Bourdain was working on an episode of his popular show Parts Unknown in France. Tragically, he had taken his own life. The outpouring of emotion from the general public and his high-profile friends celebrated the man’s life while mourning his death. He was best known for several television series in which he traveled the world to tell stories through food.

In early July, Bourdain’s will went through probate in his home state of New York. While many were surprised to learn that he was “only” worth $1.21 million at the time of his death, his estate plan provided a positive example on two fronts. First, Bourdain took care of the person who meant the most to him by directing the bulk of his estate to his only child.

He also remembered to make provisions for the nearly countless frequent flyer miles he had accumulated over the years. Specifically, he left them to his estranged spouse to handle “in accordance to what she believes to be his wishes.”

Transferring Frequent Flyer Miles

Unlike a retirement account, a frequent flyer program generally does not provide a traveler with beneficiary forms to be completed. Each airline also maintains its own policies regarding the transferability of frequent flyer miles. They are not even assignable in some cases, and in others, the airline may decide who is entitled to receive your miles. There is a good chance, however, that if you have frequent flyer miles, you will be able to pass them on to a beneficiary of your choosing through your estate plan.

The point of a frequent flyer program is loyalty. Airlines have a vested interested in protecting their brand. Some estate planning lawyers suggest that this means most airlines would be hesitant to block the transfer of miles—especially if the original owner traveled quite a bit. It would be more beneficial, in most cases, to allow the beneficiaries to use the miles so that they are more likely to choose that particular airline in the future.

We Can Help

To learn more about including frequent flyer miles or other reward perks in your estate plan, contact an experienced Naperville estate planning attorney. Call 630-756-1160 for a confidential consultation at The Gierach Law Firm today.