Anthony Bourdain was a fascinating and complicated man. He certainly inspired a portion of my travels. He left the bulk of his estate to his 11 year old daughter.
Reportedly his estate is worth just over $1 million, which raises a ton of questions about why it’s not much more. Additionally, if he had outlived his daughter, his will says her inheritance would go to her nanny. (Update: there’s also a trust with additional assets.)
In his will Bourdain specifically bequeathed his frequent flyer miles to his second wife (they separated in 2016).
Bourdain, who traveled the globe for his culinary adventure shows, gave his “accumulated frequent flier miles” to his wife. He asked her to “dispose of [them] in accordance with what [she] believes to have been my wishes,” he says in his will.
Although loyalty programs say your points belong to them, they are an asset. Each program treats points differently when a member dies. It’s advisable to know the policies of the programs you belong in, and to specify your wishes about your miles in your will.
How Major North American Airlines Programs Work When You Die
Aeroplan While “membership terminates on death” per the terms and conditions Aeroplan has explained to me that a spouse (or residual heir if no spouse) can transfer points to their account at $0.01/mile plus a $30 processing fee (plus taxes). Alternatively the spouse or residual heir can simply redeem points from the account for a period of 12 months for a processing fee of $30 (plus taxes). After 12 months, remaining miles are forfeit.
To choose one of these options, provide a copy of death certificate and will to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan has an unpublished policy to follow the transfer instructions of the member — allowing a fee-free transfer to a spouse, or to another designee with copy of will (a death certificate would be required in both cases).
American AAdvantage has a policy against transferring points on death but then offers that they’ll do it as an exception.
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.
Delta SkyMiles miles expire when you do
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards has a policy similar to Delta’s — your miles pass onto the afterlife when you do.
Points may not be transferred to a Member’s estate or as part of a settlement, inheritance, or will. In the event of a Member’s death, his/her account will become inactive after 24 months from the last earning date (unless the account is requested to be closed) and points will be unavailable for use.
United MileagePlus will transfer points to an heir for a fee.
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.
How Hotel Points Work in Estate Plans
Radisson Rewards will allow transfer of points upon death if the request is made within a year and accompanies a death certificate and will.
Hilton Honors allows for points transfer upon death. Here’s the required form.
World of Hyatt will permit transfer of points to someone at the same residential mailing address. (They actually let you transfer points to any member for free anyway.)
Here’s How You Should Prepare For Your Beneficiaries to Use Your Points
Use a mileage tracking service like Award Wallet, and leave your intended recipient your account information so they can access your frequent flyer accounts. This will help them keep track of accounts, prevent miles from expiring, and even redeem miles without informing the program of your change in status.
Add a note along with your will indicating your intentions for whom you wish to receive your points. This will avoid doubt (as folks fight over your assets, and also so that programs feel comfortable releasing points to the intended recipient). The points aren’t your assets and won’t obligate a program to do as you wish, but it makes your intentions clear.
They may need an authorized user credit card with your name If you’re just going to redeem the miles out of the member account bear in mind that some programs, like American, may require that taxes be paid for with a credit card belonging to the member whose miles are being used. So an authorized user card in the beneficiary’s name may be necessary. It doesn’t have to be giving them a card on your account, they can add you as an authorized user on theirs.
Ask for help even with the rules say no. If your recipients don’t want to ‘redeem as though they were you’ then consider asking the program for help even if their policies say they don’t. Many programs have been known to offer points transfers on an exception basis.