Wednesday, July 18, 2018

A recent estate planning trend is is to consider gifting your frequent flier miles to loved ones in your will or trust.  When I pose the question, “what would you like to do with your frequent flier miles?” to my estate plan clients, more often than not, they seem to be caught off-guard and surprised that this is something they can consider in their planning. If you really think about it, this shouldn't be that surprising at all.

For those who are truly frequent fliers, this could mean a significant bequest, especially as the cost of airfare continues to rise. For those who aren’t necessarily frequent fliers, there is still a good chance that they will accumulate rewards miles that may actually be worth something one day. It is for this reason that gifting and devising frequent flier miles, much like designating someone to have access to your social media accounts (more on this another time), have been recently creeping up in wills and estate plan documents. It’s no surprise then that somebody like the late, great Anthony Bourdain, who was clearly a frequent flyer, considered this very concept in his own estate plan. According to Page Six, Bourdain bequeathed his frequent flier miles to his wife, Ottavia Busia-Bourdain, and he asked that she “dispose of [them] in accordance with what [she] believes to have been my wishes.”  What a wonderful gift to leave a loved one - the gift of travel!

It's important to note however, that not all frequent flier programs are the same and some airline programs may not be eligible to be passed on. According to this article, frequent flier and loyalty programs are contracts between the airline and the consumer, and some programs will not allow the consumer to assign those reward miles. Despite this, it’s definitely still worthwhile to include a gifting provision, as airline programs continue to evolve and may eventually allow for transfers upon death.

Does your estate plan designate your frequent flier miles to a loved one? I’d be more than happy to review your documents for you and make the necessary changes to create this designation.

Attorney Virgilio Ong

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