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Airline miles may be worth including in Kent wills

Regular readers of this blog may know that prior discussions have covered a variety of topics that can affect Kent, Washington, estate plans in different ways. Recently, much of the discussion has centered on effective ways to manage the digital and electronic assets that are becoming increasingly significant assets in Americans' estate portfolios. Another potentially valuable and transferable asset that many Kent residents may have not considered in their estate plans is a frequent flier account.

Although it would be easy to write off frequent flier miles as a free, value-added perk rather than as an asset worthy of consideration in an estate plan, the fact is that frequent flier miles have value. While different airlines have different rules about the transferability of frequent flier miles after death, the simple act of assigning them to a beneficiary in a will can set the stage for heirs to claim the miles and prevent them from going to waste.

Certain airlines have standing policies that authorize the transfer of frequent flier miles to heirs or estate executors upon presentation of a death certificate and, when necessary, proof of beneficiary designation by way of a will or other valid legal document. Other airlines might have no formal policy, but generally make it a practice to transfer frequent flier miles upon receipt of proof of death and beneficiary designation.

In contrast, some airlines have policies prohibiting the transfer of frequent flier miles. Still others appear not to have completely figured out what their policies are with this matter and may give conflicting answers about whether they will respect a transfer.

Washingtonians who would like to pass their frequent flier miles on to heirs should consider checking with their air carrier to inquire about current policies. Even if the airline doesn't currently authorize transfers, including the miles in a will can help ensure that they go to good use in the event that company policies change.

Source: The Seattle Times, "Can you inherit frequent-flier miles?" Susan Stellin, Nov. 26, 2012

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