Settling the estate of a loved one after their death is no easy matter. First of all, you are grieving, and the last thing you want to think about is mounds of paperwork. Secondly, those mounds of paperwork often require a skill/aptitude you have not yet had to master. Some choose to handle this task by themselves while others hire an attorney who will take care of things for them. Each family must do what feels right to them.
When my Mother passed away this past November, I received the dubious honor of executor of her estate. Having been a financial planner in the past, combined with the fact that I had been executor of my Father’s estate six years prior, I chose to do the work myself versus hire it out. If you can do this, you may save quite a bit of money. The funeral home sent me a handy “Family Follow-Up Check List” itemizing thirty-four tasks that may need to be attended to. The list covered everything from sending out acknowledgement cards for donations, food and sympathy cards, to transferring all real estate property. The list, however, missed a simple item that could give you or your family an unintended gift: transfer frequent flyer miles!
If the deceased party did any traveling to speak of, they may have had one or more frequent flyer accounts in their name with an account balance that is transferable upon death to one or more of the beneficiaries listed in the will. And, upon death, the transfer is FREE! While airlines typically charge you to transfer miles between accounts, that is not the case with someone who is deceased. If your loved one did a lot of traveling, this could be a windfall – a fully paid ticket for you to a location of your dreams. Or maybe they only did a small amount of travel but the balance in their account, when added to what is already in yours, is enough to procure a free ticket. Regardless, it’s worth checking it out and certainly it’s preferable to have the miles in your account than donated back to the airlines.
If you want to transfer the mileage from the account of a deceased individual to yourself, you should contact each airline individually to discover what paperwork they are requiring in order to make the transfer. Each airline will have their own individual requirements. It may take a little while before your request is executed but eventually (mine took about 4-6 weeks to complete) you should see the miles deposited into the account you specified for the transfer. Note that the transfer account does not have to been in your name. Even though I am the executor of the estate, I had my portion of the US Airways Dividend Miles deposited into my husband’s account where they would be more beneficial to us since I had recently used my miles for a trip to Guatemala.
I’m sure very few people think about leaving a frequent flyer mile legacy to their family; I know my Mother certainly didn’t. But wouldn’t she be happy to know that her grand-kids will get to go somewhere they might not have gone courtesy of her!