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Want to Pass on Frequent Flyer Miles? Better Put That in Your Estate Plan!

Along with all the other paperwork that comes with being newly widowed, Roberta Bekerman had to persuade Delta Air Lines that she was entitled to inherit her husband's frequent-flier miles. The company's policy says that its SkyMiles, as they are called, may not be transferred "under any circumstances," including death. But Ms. Bekerman, whose husband was a trust and estate lawyer, asked them to make an exception.

Wouldn't it be nice to inherit some travel points? Just think of all the unused frequent flyer miles out there! But if you take the time to read the terms and conditions of most frequent flier, hotel reward, and credit card loyalty programs, you will find that they prohibit the transfer of accumulated points to another person, including when the program participant passes away.

However, the actual policy of most companies is to allow their employees some flexibility whether to allow transfer of points after death.

That means that when asked employees can transfer the points to an heir's account, as reported by the New York Times in an article titled "Loyalty Program Rules Aren't Ironclad."

If something can be transferred after death, then you should make it a part of your estate plan.

That is the best way to make sure that the assets go to the person or persons you want them to.

However, because loyalty programs are usually only transferrable based on the grace of the company, your estate plan should probably not rely on them for balance. In other words, it might not be a great idea to give one person less money because you are leaving them your frequent flier miles.

If the company refuses to transfer the miles, that could lead to problems.

If you have questions about making loyalty programs a part of your estate plan, visit with an experienced estate planning attorney.

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