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Frequent Flier Miles and Estate Law


Many people dream of spending their retirement years traveling the world.  Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic has put the travel plans of millions of retirees on hold indefinitely.  Thanks to an increasing number of COVID-19 vaccine doses being administered, the number of new cases nationwide has been decreasing in the past few weeks, but the pandemic has made many jet-setting seniors reluctant to travel for the foreseeable future.  If you used to make several airplane trips per year before the pandemic but now view crowded airports with trepidation, you might be in possession of more airline miles than you can reasonably expect to use in your lifetime.  This means that you should think of these airline miles as part of your estate, as an asset from which your family members can benefit.  Talk to an Orange County estate planning lawyer about what to do with unused sky miles and other underrated items of property.

What Happens to Frequent Flier Miles After a Frequent Traveler Dies?

Different airlines have different policies about what happens to the miles after the frequent traveler who earned them dies.  Some airlines, including Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Korean Airlines, and British Airways, do not allow transfer of airline miles under any circumstances.  In other words, after the frequent traveler dies, his or her frequent flier miles simply vanish into thin air.  Other airlines are slightly more generous toward the surviving relatives of frequent travelers.  They allow you to claim a recently deceased relative’s airline miles, but the procedure differ from one airline to another:

  • Southwest – Surviving relatives who know the decedent’s login information may log into the decedent’s account and claim his or her unused airline miles. The deadline to do this is two years after the traveler’s death.
  • Delta – You can obtain a deceased relative’s airline miles by requesting permission from a vice president of the company.
  • Emirates – Contact the airline within six months of the traveler’s death to claim his or her unused miles.

In addition to these, some other airlines are in the process of revising their policies on the transfer of frequent flier miles.

Sharing Your Airline Miles While You Are Still Alive

A popular piece of wisdom in estate planning law is that it is best to share your wealth with your family members while you are alive instead of waiting for them to inherit it from your estate.  JetBlue has designed its frequent flier miles policy to make it easy for members of the same family to access each other’s frequent flier miles.  It considers frequent flier miles to belong to entire families.  Therefore, when you travel, you accumulate frequent flier miles that any member of your family can use.

Let Us Help You Today

An Orlando estate planning lawyer can help you use all your assets in a way that enables you to enjoy your retirement and ensure financial stability for your descendants.  Contact Gierach and Gierach, P.A. for a consultation.





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