Housekeeping: Estate Planning & Your Miles

Housekeeping: Estate Planning & Your Miles

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Not to be morbid, but this is a question I get all the time. Miles and points are confusing enough, and when you add in the stress surrounding an unexpected (or even expected) death it can be difficult to understand options and make decisions.

I first wrote this post in the weeks after my grandfather passed away, after a very challenging experience in trying to sort out his miles and points along with all the usual issues that go along with moving an estate through probate. At the time I figured it would be helpful to compile the rules for the main programs, along with my tips on how to organize your miles such that they can be used should something happen to you.

I’ve heard in the years since that this has become a useful resource for estate planning, and at the request of a reader (Hi Ray!) I’ve updated this for 2020.

Your miles aren’t yours

This is perhaps counter-intuitive, but is the most important thing to understand up-front. Airline rewards aren’t assets that can be automatically bequeathed to your heirs, and in nearly all cases the programs themselves assume control of any miles when they are notified that you have passed away.

Which ahem — is something to be aware of prior to notifying a loyalty rewards program that a person has passed away.

Still, it’s not enough to just write a note in your will saying that any miles go to so-and-so. Each program has slightly different rules and exceptions, but as with anything else in this space — you’ll get the best results by doing as much of the legwork yourself as possible.

Airline miles

For the most part, you can redeem your miles for anyone, even if you’re not traveling, so that would be my first recommendation. With a bit of advance planning (see more below), there’s no reason why your heirs can’t make some redemptions prior to notifying the airline.

In other cases, the airlines have provisions allowing miles to be transferred to another account (either as an exception or for a fee), but I would only do this if there aren’t otherwise enough miles in an account for a direct redemption.

For program specifics, and links to full terms:

Program
Terms

Miles are not transferable through legal instruments, but:

“Aeroplan may, from time to time, in its sole discretion, allow members to transfer miles after death.”

In practice, Aeroplan will allow free transfers if the beneficiaries provide information about the account holder’s Aeroplan account, copy of the member’s death certificate, and section of the will that names the beneficiaries.
No published policy, but typically allows fee-free transfers to spouse or heir upon receipt of a death certificate and will/letter of intent.

Miles are not transferable through legal instruments, but:

“American Airlines, 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.”
Miles are not transferable through legal instruments, but you can pool miles in Household Accounts. There are mixed reports of Executive Club allowing free transfers if contacted by the executor of a Will, but there are an equal number of success as failure stories there, so I wouldn’t count on it.
Miles are not transferable through legal instruments, and Delta no longer offers an official transfer option upon death of the member. Exceptions can be made, but aren’t a guarantee.
Miles are not transferable, and I haven’t heard of exceptions being made.
Miles are not transferable through legal instruments, but you can combine miles through Family Pooling.

Miles are not transferable through legal instruments.

Miles are not transferable through legal instruments, but:

“In the event of the death or divorce of a Member, United may, in its sole discretion, credit all or a portion of such Member’s accrued mileage to authorized persons upon receipt of documentation satisfactory to United and payment of applicable fees.”

Hotel points

Hotels are a bit trickier, as for the most part you can’t formally use hotel points for someone else. You’ll typically have to transfer the points to your heirs for them to be able to use the points.

Fortunately, most of the hotel programs make that rather simple:

Program
Terms

“In case of the death of a Member, points in the Member’s account may be transferred to another active Member upon Hilton Honors Worldwide’s receipt and approval of certain requested documentation and information.”


Hilton will generally allow for a transfer if the beneficiary fills out the ‘Declaration in Support of Request for Transfer of Deceased Member’s Hilton Honors Points’ form and provides a copy of the deceased member’s death certificate within one year of death. Utilizing Family Pooling is likely the easier option.

Pay $5 USD per 1,000 points transferred to anyone, or:

“When an IHG® Rewards Club member passes away, the member’s IHG® Rewards Club points may be transferred to the IHG® Rewards Club account(s) of the member’s beneficiary(ies). The request for transfer should be sent to the IHG® Rewards Club Service Centre by the executor or administrator of the decedent’s estate, along with court documents showing authority, or by a sole beneficiary, along with copies of the decedent’s will and death certificate. The request must be received within one (1) year of the date of death. Transfer fees will be waived.”
Transfer up to 100,000 points per year to anyone, or:

“In the event of a Member’s death, the Company may, in its sole discretion, allow unredeemed Points from the deceased Member’s Account to be transferred to a family member or a friend who is an active Member upon the Company’s receipt and review of all requested documentation and communications. Elite Membership Status, Lifetime Membership Status, and the related benefits, including, without limitation, Elite Night Credit, will not transfer to the recipient of the Points.”

Members can always transfer points within households (addresses have to match, and both accounts have to be open for at least 1 year). Gold members can transfer points to anyone.

Additionally: “Gold Points belonging to a Club Carlson member who is deceased may be transferred to the Club Carlson account of the deceased member’s beneficiary(ies) in our sole discretion.”

Hyatt does allow awards to be issued for other individuals, including Guest of Honor bookings from Globalist members, and allows points to be transferred between members for no fee.

Additionally: “In the case of documented death of a Member, points (but not elite status or awards) are transferable on a one-time basis to one (1) person sharing the same residential mailing address as the deceased Member. Receipt of points in such a transfer requires the recipient to be a Member. (Hyatt will have no responsibility for any disputes related to the transference of the points of a deceased Member and, in the event that Hyatt receives competing transfer requests from more than one (1) person sharing the deceased Member’s residential address and such dispute cannot be resolved to Hyatt’s satisfaction, Hyatt may refuse all transfers and void the deceased Member’s points.).”

Credit card points

Many of us have significant numbers of credit card rewards.

American Express Membership Rewards

The terms state:

Points are not your property. You can’t transfer points to any other person or program account. Additionally, points can’t be transferred by operation of law, such as by inheritance, in bankruptcy or in connection with a divorce.

In practice, however, you can “take over” the account of a deceased relative, and then reinstate the rewards points. If you’re an authorized user (and have been for at least 90 days), you already have the option to move points to any of your frequent flyer accounts.

If we cancel your Linked Card Account in the event of your death, your executor or personal representative may request to use the points in your program account in a one-time redemption by calling us.

Amex has a special department that handles these requests; they can be reached at 1-800-266-7064, Monday through Friday from 8AM to 10PM Eastern.

Once a card is canceled, all points are forfeit, so keep that in mind when planning.

Capital One Rewards

No formal or published policy that I’ve been able to find — this is seemingly handled on a case-by-case basis, so I wouldn’t rely on it, and would instead plan to transfer points directly to a transfer partner for cards that allow mileage transfer.

Chase Ultimate Rewards

The terms state:

If we’re notified of your death, your points will be automatically redeemed for cash in the form of an account statement credit.

Once again, you already have the option to combine Ultimate Rewards points with those of an authorized user, so that’s probably the best option. You may also be able to “take over” the account, but that will be more complicated.

Citi ThankYou Rewards

The terms state:

You will lose your Points upon your death, and your estate, successors and assigns have no property rights or other legal interests in such Points, except under this circumstance:

Cash Rewards Option. If we receive a written request within one (1) year of your death from the executor or administrator of your estate, along with evidence satisfactory to us of your death and the identity and appointment of the executor or administrator, we can allow Points remaining in your ThankYou account to be redeemed for Cash Rewards. Contact the ThankYou Service Center at 1-800-THANKYOU (1-800-842-6596) for more information

However, you can transfer Citi ThankYou points to any other member, up to 100,000 points per account in a calendar year. Otherwise, transferring points directly out of Citi to a transfer partner is probably the best approach.

Planning ahead

Whether you want your family to be able to take an amazing vacation, or want to use any rewards to defray final travel expenses, it helps to have a plan. There are a few things you can do to make the process easier.

Online access

Whether you’re using AwardWallet to track your balances, or have some other system for keeping your miles organized, one of the best things you can do to preserve your miles is to set up online accounts.

This might sound like a no-brainer for OMAAT readers, but I can almost guarantee that some of your parents and grandparents are still relying on their paper statements to tell them how many points they have.

Once the online accounts are in place, make sure there’s a way for someone else to access that information, either by giving the info to a designated person (more on that later), or including it with your other important documents.

Being able to go online to check balances, move miles, or redeem awards will make everything much easier, and will help avoid phone calls to airlines.

Authorized user accounts

If possible and practical, I’d also recommend adding an authorized user to your main credit card rewards accounts.

Some airlines ask that award taxes and fees be paid by the account holder, and other times the traveler will need to show the credit card used for payment when they go to travel.

As an alternative, authorized users can often transfer credit card rewards points directly into their mileage accounts, giving you another way to liquidate your miles.

Keep in mind that even if you have luxury cards with high annual fees, you may be able to open a no-fee card that links to the same rewards account. You don’t even have to give these cards out in advance — they can go in the safe or deposit box along with your other documents, to be used by your beneficiaries if needed.

Designate a representative

Based on my personal experiences, I would highly recommend picking someone to be in charge of the mileage situation that isn’t otherwise the executor of your estate. Quite frankly, death is complicated, and the executor is going to have plenty of other (and more pressing) things to do.

So pick a friend who knows about miles, or a second cousin who can follow instructions, and give them the details of what you’d like done with your miles. Make sure they know where to find usernames and passwords should the need arise, and make sure everyone else knows that this person is in charge of the miles. You can include a note about how you’d like them to be used in your will, but as miles aren’t an asset or legal tender it’s probably not technically enforceable. Getting everyone on the same page ahead of time should help.

Having a designated person not only makes it easier to prepare things in advance, but also takes the burden of figuring out programs and making decisions off of your loved ones.

Bottom line

Ultimately, you want to avoid having anyone call the airline to inform them of your passing. Once an account is terminated, it’s possible to move the miles around, but it becomes much more difficult.

For those of us that have millions of miles, it’s worth taking the time to not only make plans for your mileage accounts, but to also communicate those plans. Even those people that only have a few thousand miles can still benefit from a bit of advanced planning, and it will be much easier on your family if you do.

Any other experiences dealing with miles after someone has passed away?

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  1. iamhere

    @dixieboz - Reinstating points usually refers to getting expired points back and airlines and hotels that allow this have made big money on such related fees. Often times it's not worth the fee they charge.

  2. dixieboz

    @Tiffany, sorry. Just to clarify, I am asking about your comment about the American Express Points!

  3. dixieboz

    @Tiffany - you wrote... "In practice, however, you can “take over” the account of a deceased relative, and then reinstate the rewards points. "

    What do you mean by "reinstating" the points? If my husband could just take over my account, wouldn't the points still be there? Why would they have to be reinstated?

    Do certain cards need to NOT be cancelled so that the points can still be used by him? I...

    @Tiffany - you wrote... "In practice, however, you can “take over” the account of a deceased relative, and then reinstate the rewards points. "

    What do you mean by "reinstating" the points? If my husband could just take over my account, wouldn't the points still be there? Why would they have to be reinstated?

    Do certain cards need to NOT be cancelled so that the points can still be used by him? I wouldn't want him to keep the Platinum open with the high fees! Blue Business Plus or Amex Everyday?

  4. RayFlyer

    AA - any experience or tips for American Airlines miles? No kids, no spouse - after my death, would consider transfer to a nephew for use by relatives. Any success stories? Thanks.

  5. jane blogs

    Thanks @Tiffany for raising this subject & providing great information, it is so critical for us all. I think @jojo is absolutely correct, if you haven't written a will it is absolutely essential and a great starting point but certainly isn't the end of the process & you don't want to have to go to probate courts unnecessarily. @TheBrain also has some important tips to help with the process.

    I am not a lawyer, just...

    Thanks @Tiffany for raising this subject & providing great information, it is so critical for us all. I think @jojo is absolutely correct, if you haven't written a will it is absolutely essential and a great starting point but certainly isn't the end of the process & you don't want to have to go to probate courts unnecessarily. @TheBrain also has some important tips to help with the process.

    I am not a lawyer, just a common garden idiot, so please take these words in that light. They are not all travel related but if you are having problems with miles then I imagine you have bigger issues as well. Let me assure you, that the problem's won't arise so much with our parents or grandparents death, their loyalty points & online lives were simple or non existent. They will arise with us - our deaths, our partners or children i.e. the tech savy generations as now there is just so much stuff & so many passwords & so many things that we just don't even think of. First thing I would say is make sure someone knows the password to your phone and your computer because if they can't access those then you can't access anything and literally NO.ONE is going to help you unlock them, not Apple, not Microsoft, not your phone company, no.one. They are the key to everything.

    And if you use an automated password system, make sure they know the password for that. Maybe leave a one page old fashioned piece of paper with your passwords somewhere for your loved one or executor or whomever. And update that information regularly because if it is not updated, it too becomes useless!!!

    I am sharing this information because Unfortunately I recently had this experience with my partner who ironically made his living in the tech world and had every security system and automated whatever is possible. I also had been given updated lists with passwords & instructions. But guess what, when he died very unexpectedly a large chunk of that information was not the latest version & it became difficult to access. If I had not been his Power of Attorney & Executor & known so much about his life & had just been relying on the will & the lawyer then almost nothing would have been resolved in the short term. Turns out the bank accounts are the easy part!

    As others have said, most of the airlines and hotel companies were no problem and once a fee was paid to Amex, that was sorted as well. I had no problems with any of these regardless of the country in which they were based. And the same with the credit card companies. I do agree with @Tiffany though that if you can transfer miles to family easily then you should. We shared Netflix, Amazon, Costco etc but even if that is the case, it is important to access those quickly and ensure yours becomes the master email or contact & if you weren't listed on those & you just used the same codes then go into edit and add yourself immediately. Airlines can have credit vouchers, Amazon accounts can have gift cards etc so worth checking them all for balances. So much is now online & subscription based be it social media - insta, twitter, facebook etc - software, domains, it is really important you have a handle on it because many of these companies are impossible to speak with & just producing a death certificate doesn't always solve the problem but it sure does take a lot of your time especially in a time when you are emotionally fragile. As @Tiffany said, if you have authorised users on yr credit cards or all your heirs have accounts within the same travel programs as you, it does make a big difference in the ease of transferring miles.

    Don't rush to cut off the phone or email until you absolutely need to because in these days of two factor identification or verifications etc, you will really need that access for a period of time. Plus, calling from that number sometimes pre identifies you with that company so it can be helpful. And even if you have produced the death certificate there are plenty of people who feel the need to call that number to check with the person to verify their death - true story!

    I'm sure many of you know this but a Power of Attorney ends at the moment of someone's death. From that point, it is the Executor or Administrator that becomes the authority so choose wisely! And again, a point I am sure most are aware of, if a beneficiary has been named for financial accounts such as a Roth then that is what stands, not what is in the Will. But it is important to put that in the will also so the executor & the attorneys know who to notify as the financial company will not notify the beneficiary, so it is important preferably they themselves know.

    As @Tiffany said, some preparation will help but in this day and age, that needs to be updated constantly and consistently. I also agree that its important to have everyone get rid of the paper statements, it becomes much easier & quicker to access, update or close any online accounts be they travel or non travel than waiting for the old paper to turn up in the mail or spending time on the phone. Everyone needs to: Make a Will, Make a list of Beneficiaries not covered in a Will, Appoint a Power of Attorney, Appoint an Executor, Go through EVERYTHING & list your accounts & passwords & then make sure two people know where those things are.

    Unfortunately, watching the dreaded Covid assassinate travel, we should all probably have spent our miles and points well before this because sadly, I am not sure we are going to have the opportunity to use them in the forseeeable future regardless of whose account they came from!

  6. John

    Thanks for a very good article. Before major surgery in March I updated my will to specify where my AA and Delta miles would go. I also gave one son all my account numbers and passwords so that he could move miles and points around. My wife is the Executor but I assumed she would be to involved with outer matters to be concerned about miles and points. I hope to live long enough to...

    Thanks for a very good article. Before major surgery in March I updated my will to specify where my AA and Delta miles would go. I also gave one son all my account numbers and passwords so that he could move miles and points around. My wife is the Executor but I assumed she would be to involved with outer matters to be concerned about miles and points. I hope to live long enough to enjoy most of my miles and points but with the current situation we should all plan for different outcomes. PLANNING is key.

  7. Eskimo

    @Tiffany

    If AMEX states that
    "Points are not your property." does that mean AMEX can't really issue you a 1099-MISC since you didn't earn anything from AMEX?

    In Layman's terms of, it's like you seize Amex's property (with consent) to buy yourself a plane ticket.

    For IRS, they might still expect you to self report this as income.

    1. Tiffany

      @ Eskimo -- Outside of refer-a-friend bonuses (which after the 2018 tax changes are possibly considered commissions and thus income), the stance of the IRS has been that points and miles are a rebate. A person with the enthusiasm to do so could potentially contest those 1099s, or at least the declared value.

      @ wpr8e -- It's precisely because miles and points aren't considered assets that I recommend having a separate plan for them.

      @...

      @ Eskimo -- Outside of refer-a-friend bonuses (which after the 2018 tax changes are possibly considered commissions and thus income), the stance of the IRS has been that points and miles are a rebate. A person with the enthusiasm to do so could potentially contest those 1099s, or at least the declared value.

      @ wpr8e -- It's precisely because miles and points aren't considered assets that I recommend having a separate plan for them.

      @ jane blogs -- Wonderful details and observations, thank you!!

  8. Roger

    Sorry, I meant better if it is a durable power of attorney. Remains in effect even while incapacitated.

  9. Roger

    @Tiffany

    In the interest of preparing, then, why not just recommend establishing a special power of attorney that specifically authorizes a named individual to access and make decisions on behalf of a very focused list of points and frequent flier accounts? It could be durable, but better if it is not. With this, there can certainly be no basis for being accused of fraud. When your relative’s situation starts turning for the worst...log in to...

    @Tiffany

    In the interest of preparing, then, why not just recommend establishing a special power of attorney that specifically authorizes a named individual to access and make decisions on behalf of a very focused list of points and frequent flier accounts? It could be durable, but better if it is not. With this, there can certainly be no basis for being accused of fraud. When your relative’s situation starts turning for the worst...log in to all their accounts and start redeeming as you see fit. No need to skirt any ethical boundaries now, particularly if they’re in the process of passing, but haven’t yet passed.

  10. Asdf

    > As the designated executor, it is your responsibility to begin the process of dividing the assets among the beneficiaries. This includes accumulated miles given that they are a form of currency.

    I am not a trusts and estates lawyer, but, the point is that miles and points _are not_ yours and _not_ a form of currency, and any action related to them is out of the good grace of the owner of the...

    > As the designated executor, it is your responsibility to begin the process of dividing the assets among the beneficiaries. This includes accumulated miles given that they are a form of currency.

    I am not a trusts and estates lawyer, but, the point is that miles and points _are not_ yours and _not_ a form of currency, and any action related to them is out of the good grace of the owner of the points: the programs. The executor has control over the decedent's estate, which does not include the miles and points.

    Think of it like you borrowed a car and then died. The owner of the car can demand the car back - or could allow the car to continue to be borrowed by someone else that you designated or that they designate.

  11. derek

    If you are the executor and there's fighting, then using the miles or points using the Decedent's password is problematic. In such case, it's better not to accumulate too many points but to use them while alive

  12. Charlie 7927

    When my Mother passed away she had about 28,000 AA miles. Within the first year, I logged on as her and booked a round trip ticket in my name. AA never knew she had passed away.

  13. Andy 11235

    I would just add or emphasize the importance of keeping a emergency list of accounts, user names, and passwords. And bold on making sure the key people know where this is and what you want done. If there is sufficient time for such planning, it certainly helps to make sure the person charged with taking care of things is an authorized user or account manager. Just to add, it isn't fraud for someone to access your account and do the things you instructed them to do.

  14. iamhere

    This article would be even more useful if you mentioned foreign airlines too.

  15. KR

    Excellent article and timely, given the global
    situation. Thank for taking the time to put together such a worthwhile piece.

    I’m sure it took a lot of time to put together the information on each airline, hotel chain plus include credit card info. It’s the kind of thing one needs to think about and deal with before they re forced to.

    Death is not a morbid subject. It’s a taboo subject. Thanks for being brave!

  16. Andrew

    @Roger - you can't take it with you. ;)

  17. wpr8e

    @Tiffany,

    As the designated executor, it is your responsibility to begin the process of dividing the assets among the beneficiaries. This includes accumulated miles given that they are a form of currency. I do not agree that you should designate someone else to handle this process unless that is specifically desired by the deceased. That would be like giving someone the power to sell the house, car, financial assets, etc. It should be one person...

    @Tiffany,

    As the designated executor, it is your responsibility to begin the process of dividing the assets among the beneficiaries. This includes accumulated miles given that they are a form of currency. I do not agree that you should designate someone else to handle this process unless that is specifically desired by the deceased. That would be like giving someone the power to sell the house, car, financial assets, etc. It should be one person for everything.

    Quite lucky that airlines allow this benefit.

  18. wpr8e

    @S,

    No money required. In fact they were very gracious about the whole process.

  19. Rob from Canada

    Just a quick update re: Southwest Rapid Rewards: While Rapid Rewards Miles formerly expired after 24 months of inactivity, this has now changed, and current policy is that Southwest Rapid Rewards miles do not expire due to inactivity.

  20. Moira Tamayo

    My husband and I were both platinum members of American when he died in 2002. I called the Platinum line and they moved 1.5 million miles to my account. I think I did have to send them a copy of the death certificate, but they didn't charge me.

  21. Hepworth

    I am sure a lot of readers have logged into a spouse's or family member's account to make a redemption (or even called the airline/hotel program to make a redemption), with the permission of the account owner. I have done so numerous times with no issue, and would have no issue doing it again. I don't see what the difference is if that spouse has passed, if their will says they want me to have...

    I am sure a lot of readers have logged into a spouse's or family member's account to make a redemption (or even called the airline/hotel program to make a redemption), with the permission of the account owner. I have done so numerous times with no issue, and would have no issue doing it again. I don't see what the difference is if that spouse has passed, if their will says they want me to have the use of their miles/points--particularly for those programs that don't expressly provide that the miles expire or the account terminates at death.

  22. Elijah

    @Greg and Roger

    YAWN!!!! Now be quiet and drink your milk.

  23. RobPHX

    I had a similar experience as Ann. When my father died 15+ years ago, American Airlines allowed my mom and I to transfer his miles to me for just $50. It was still worth it as I was in need to buy a RT from PHX to Lima, Peru for a vacation week to attend a Peruvian friend's wedding. His miles plus mine were enough for that redemption. It was fast and smooth.

  24. Ann

    When my husband died he has miles on Alaska and United. Alaska transferred them to my account with no fee with a copy of the death certificate. United did the same - with a death certificate and charged me $50.00 [1995]

  25. The Brain

    This is something I have covered in a "in the event of my death" document I keep updated for my wife and kids outlining investments, assets, etc that I handle they may not be as familiar with. I have 6 to 7 figure balances with around 6 different programs (and smaller ones with a few others) plus both Membership Rewards and Ultimate Points.

    One thing I got from my estate attorney when we updated...

    This is something I have covered in a "in the event of my death" document I keep updated for my wife and kids outlining investments, assets, etc that I handle they may not be as familiar with. I have 6 to 7 figure balances with around 6 different programs (and smaller ones with a few others) plus both Membership Rewards and Ultimate Points.

    One thing I got from my estate attorney when we updated our wills, trusts and powers of attorney a few years ago. Even though the programs typically state the miles/points are their property in practice many do allow them to be transferred in the event of death (as you noted). However, it helps if the will affirmatively states that miles and points are included with the assets to be included in the estate. This at least would provide documentation of clear intent which, along with proof of death, some programs require before taking any action.

    BTW I also have my ID and PW for all my accounts listed with instructions to not notify those where you can make online reservations in someone else's name and just use the points after my death until they are gone. That is much easier (mainly for airline programs as you indicated) than actually transferring the account balance to someone else. Even for hotels you could make the reservation online in your name and then have someone call to add another person to the list of approved people staying there which should allow someone to take advantage of that reservation and check in. Yes I know this is not in compliance with the programs but the miles and points have been legitimately earned and I'll come back and haunt people if they can't be used.

  26. Krabnov

    American Express Flying Blue card holders (at least in The Netherlands) have the option to transfer Flying Blue miles between card holders within the same account.

  27. S

    @Kendor, fair points there actually.

    I wish they would give an exception for children though, as they often travel just like spouses too and keep the points in the family. Just my 2 cents.

  28. SEM

    This information is so useful...Thank you for updating your previous article which I [unfortunately] did have to reference once in the past...For anyone complaining about the ethics here, take a hard look in the mirror before commenting, most points "gamers" have all taken advantage of loop holes in the past...This is just another version of that...Just my opinion, FWIW...

  29. Kendor

    @S
    I have some sympathy for the airlines/hotels desire for points recipients to reside at the same address. If it's possible to transfer to anyone near or far, then it will inspire the growth of a marketplace for the dearly departed miles of dead dudes and dudettes. I think hotels and airlines want some kind of relationship with elites who will build their business, not just the emergence of an alternative currency.

    It...

    @S
    I have some sympathy for the airlines/hotels desire for points recipients to reside at the same address. If it's possible to transfer to anyone near or far, then it will inspire the growth of a marketplace for the dearly departed miles of dead dudes and dudettes. I think hotels and airlines want some kind of relationship with elites who will build their business, not just the emergence of an alternative currency.

    It seems like a reasonable compromise is to allow free transfers to legal spouses, who often were direct participants in the miles and points earning.

  30. S

    @wpr8e

    Did that transfer require money or were you able to transfer your mother's miles to your (and your sisters) for free upon notifying UA? Thanks in advance.

    Also, unfortunate that Hyatt, for example, requires transfers to be to people who live at the same address. What if a parent wants to transfer to a child who lives on their own? Nonsensical IMO.

  31. Kendor

    @Roger

    This is most likely going to apply to spouses, who are obligated by law to share everything. So "pilfering" is way too strong a word in this case.

    The better question is whether there is any history of airlines prosecuting or speaking out against the use of points by surviving spouses, and/or if using someone else's account in this way constitutes actual prosecutable or actionable fraud. I'm not a lawyer, I have no...

    @Roger

    This is most likely going to apply to spouses, who are obligated by law to share everything. So "pilfering" is way too strong a word in this case.

    The better question is whether there is any history of airlines prosecuting or speaking out against the use of points by surviving spouses, and/or if using someone else's account in this way constitutes actual prosecutable or actionable fraud. I'm not a lawyer, I have no idea.

    I'm usually one to encourage people to follow program rules and not be abusive, but I guess I'm having a hard time mentally grasping how in the case of spouses how the benefit should completely die with the person. Seems like an act of compassion in those cases to allow the survivor to make use of what was earned.

  32. wpr8e

    I recently did this with my mother's MileagePlus account. I had to provide copies of the Death Certificate, Letter(s) of Testamentary and a notarized letter asking for the transfer of mileage. I was able to split the miles evenly between myself and my sisters. Took a bit of effort but wasn't really a big deal. I think United transferred the miles a week or two later. I treated this just like any other division of...

    I recently did this with my mother's MileagePlus account. I had to provide copies of the Death Certificate, Letter(s) of Testamentary and a notarized letter asking for the transfer of mileage. I was able to split the miles evenly between myself and my sisters. Took a bit of effort but wasn't really a big deal. I think United transferred the miles a week or two later. I treated this just like any other division of assets. I did offer to give my sisters money in lieu of miles (I think $1.7 cents/mile) but they both took the miles.

  33. Howard

    @Roger I'm assuming the person who has access to the deceased individuals miles would have had that person's blessing anyways. This beats having to pay another death tax to the programs for miles that they had accrued over their lifetime.

    As for gifting the miles, sure if you know you're going to die. If you get hit by a truck you're not going to have that same foresight though. I for know if that happens...

    @Roger I'm assuming the person who has access to the deceased individuals miles would have had that person's blessing anyways. This beats having to pay another death tax to the programs for miles that they had accrued over their lifetime.

    As for gifting the miles, sure if you know you're going to die. If you get hit by a truck you're not going to have that same foresight though. I for know if that happens I'd rather my SO or any other beneficiary enjoy the miles rather than have to deal with other bullshit.

  34. Roger

    @Tiffany

    Wow. I learn so much reading your articles. Stayed at the same Park Hyatt as you in Siem Reap — enjoyed the same welcome drink and breakfast spread.

    This, however, takes the cake. You state: With a bit of advance planning (see more below), there’s no reason why your heirs can’t make some redemptions prior to notifying the airline.

    I don’t understand how a person’s heirs can gain access to and perform a...

    @Tiffany

    Wow. I learn so much reading your articles. Stayed at the same Park Hyatt as you in Siem Reap — enjoyed the same welcome drink and breakfast spread.

    This, however, takes the cake. You state: With a bit of advance planning (see more below), there’s no reason why your heirs can’t make some redemptions prior to notifying the airline.

    I don’t understand how a person’s heirs can gain access to and perform a mileage redemption from someone else’s account without committing an act of fraud. Maybe you should just warn readers about this sort of situation and encourage elderly relatives to gift their excessive miles prior to passing to avoid the unpleasantness of mileage or points probate, as it were. The unscrupulous amongst us can always read between the lines.

    Advocating for an eleventh hour pilfering of a recently deceased relative’s various assets and accounts seems...despicable? Sorry.

    1. Tiffany

      @ Roger -- I always appreciate feedback, but respectfully, I think the overall point may have been missed here. This is hardly about an "eleventh hour pilfering," but rather how to organize your affairs so as to avoid unnecessary stress and confusion as you would with your other estate planning. There are nuances to how things should be structured (like the bank programs that require someone to have been an authorized user for 90+ days...

      @ Roger -- I always appreciate feedback, but respectfully, I think the overall point may have been missed here. This is hardly about an "eleventh hour pilfering," but rather how to organize your affairs so as to avoid unnecessary stress and confusion as you would with your other estate planning. There are nuances to how things should be structured (like the bank programs that require someone to have been an authorized user for 90+ days before they can access the account, or programs that want to see address matches) to make the whole situation easier on everyone, should the need arise.

      I can give another example from my family's experience. When my grandmother (on the other side of the family) passed away 12+ years ago, she had prepaid for her funeral and burial, but had made it known that she wanted any cash she had left on hand and whatever miles she had used to help her kids, grandkids, and siblings attend her funeral (the family cemetery is literally in the middle of nowhere, and both costly and complicated to get to), and then other assets divided up later. It was essentially impossible to facilitate that, as she passed suddenly and unexpectedly, and while my aunt was a joint user on some of her deposit accounts, all the airlines and bank programs wanted to wait for notarized death certificates, probate to settle, etc. She didn't know that simply stating your wishes for your miles and points wasn't sufficient, and if she'd been in hospice first or a more apparent decline I'm sure she would have booked tickets for everyone and had us organize the funeral accordingly, but that's just not how life works most of the time.

      In general processes are better established now than they were a dozen years ago, but if a bit of preparation saves others some of that headache, it seems reasonable to do so.

  35. aj montana

    when the bit about hilton still says hilton hhonors...

  36. jojo

    Please everyone make a WILL of you 20 30 40 MAKE A WILL having to do probate court is horrendous. Even a simple 3 lines saying who gets what will save family time and headaches

  37. Greg

    The advice in this article blatantly goes against terms and conditions of many programs (e.g. letting others access or use your account without your knowledge, because you're dead).

    This website went on a high horse about people breaking AAs terms and conditions duri g the when shutdown saga (even though they didn't technically, since all interactions were with Citi), so the advice here to skirt the official terms is hugely hypocritical.

  38. molle

    I am still managing, and using, the miles from several airline programs of a relative who passed away several years ago. I was granted access to their online accounts prior to death. There is no requirement I am aware of to notify airlines of a death. As long as tickets purchased with miles can be used by others I think this is the best way to manage the miles. In my estate papers I have...

    I am still managing, and using, the miles from several airline programs of a relative who passed away several years ago. I was granted access to their online accounts prior to death. There is no requirement I am aware of to notify airlines of a death. As long as tickets purchased with miles can be used by others I think this is the best way to manage the miles. In my estate papers I have a list of the accounts and passwords with instructions on how to access and use the miles.

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iamhere

@dixieboz - Reinstating points usually refers to getting expired points back and airlines and hotels that allow this have made big money on such related fees. Often times it's not worth the fee they charge.

dixieboz

@Tiffany, sorry. Just to clarify, I am asking about your comment about the American Express Points!

dixieboz

@Tiffany - you wrote... "In practice, however, you can “take over” the account of a deceased relative, and then reinstate the rewards points. " What do you mean by "reinstating" the points? If my husband could just take over my account, wouldn't the points still be there? Why would they have to be reinstated? Do certain cards need to NOT be cancelled so that the points can still be used by him? I wouldn't want him to keep the Platinum open with the high fees! Blue Business Plus or Amex Everyday?

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