Most discussions regarding Wills and Trusts focus on where our common assets will go when we die, namely: real estate, bank accounts, cash, stock, investments, life insurance, and vehicles. While these common assets may make up the bulk of our wealth, don’t forget about some of your most prized possessions. You know, the plastic credit cards you use on the daily, as well as the airline miles you accumulate while taking well-deserved vacations.
Frequent travelers often accrue thousands of dollars in airline miles. But what happens to these airline points or funds when the traveler dies? The airline company is not going to track down the surviving family to hand over the points. This is because most people don’t think about intangible or digital assets when grieving the loss of a loved one. Therefore, it is best practice to make a list of all digital assets and keep the list with your estate plans. This way, your loved ones know who to contact to ensure the assets you earned during your lifetime are distributed according to your Will. Of course, every airline has its own rules. If you have a specific airline you regularly use, it is important to review the airline’s policy on transferring airline miles at death. Many airlines will allow you to name a person as a payable on death beneficiary, albeit some paperwork will be required, and some airlines make the process more difficult than others. Regardless, as long as you have a payable on death beneficiary designated on your airline miles, the company will transfer those miles and points to your designated persons at your death.
Credit card points are another commonly missed asset. It may not be long before the younger generation never writes a check or carries cash. In fact, there has been recent talk of the United States mandating a conversion of the U.S. dollar to digital currency via Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC). As we modernize, we become more and more digital – for better or for worse. As such, planning for digital and intangible assets will become an integral part of estate planning. For now, don’t lose your earned credit card points and cash. Contact your credit card company and request its policy on transferring your points at death.
The same holds true for hotel rewards. Moreover, compared to airline and credit card companies, hotels consistently provide clearer instructions for transferring your reward points at death. Other examples of digital assets include bitcoin and cryptocurrencies; domains for websites; digital photos and videos; blog content; and digital rights to literary and artistic work.
For digital assets, just like all other assets, it is easier and more efficient and effective if you plan ahead. Without doing so, it’s very likely your loved ones won’t know the intangible assets exist, thereby effectively giving those funds back to the companies. Likewise, even if you keep a list of intangible assets, once you are gone, airlines, credit card companies, hotels, and other businesses are limited in what, if any, information they can provide.
In conclusion: (1) make a list of your intangible and digital assets; (2) keep the list with your estate plans; (3) make a list of your online usernames and passwords; and (4) contact the companies who administer the digital assets and ensure you complete the necessary paperwork during your lifetime to make the transfer upon death easier. The next time your surviving loved one uses those airline points, he or she will thank you as they jet through clouds!
The information contained above is for informational purposes only, and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel. You should not act or rely upon this information.