The late jet-setting chef, Anthony Bourdain, spent much of his career travelling the world.

When the plans for the chef's estate were filed in his home town of New York, it contained some surprises.

His career spanned four TV series, over ten books (including the New York Times best selling Kitchen Confidential) and articles for cooking publications on both sides of the Atlantic.

It came as a shock then when his estate was valued at $1.2m ( about NZ$1.8m), a tenth of what the his estimated worth of US$16m (NZ$2.3m) as reported before his death in Strasbourg.


The majority of this sum was left to Bourdain's 11-year-old daughter, Ariane.

However, this wasn't the only remarkable thing in the will.

According to Page Six News, Bourdain's will had made a special mention of his "accumulated frequent flier miles" of which he had racked up during filming his globetrotting TV series The Layover and Parts Unknown.

In a personal touch the court heard that the chef left his air miles to his former wife, Ottavia Busia-Bourdain with instructions to "dispose of in accordance to what she believes to be his wishes."

He wrote the will in 2016, when he was still married to her.

However, the regulation on passing on air miles is a tricky business.

Frequent flyers planning on bequeathing their air miles should be aware that different airlines have different policies on points.

"Loyalty programs are essentially contracts with the airline and you need to review each airline's contract to see what is possible after death," Paula Leibovitz Goodwin, a partner at Perkins Coie LLP, told Forbes. "You cannot assume all of the contracts are the same."


For many American airlines, like Delta and Southwest, the points are tied to an individual, and expire when a passenger does.

"Points may not be transferred to a Member's estate or as part of a settlement, inheritance, or will."

Others like United are prepared "in the event of the death or divorce" to transfer points, for a fee.

Velocity Frequent Flyer (Virgin Australia) has one of the more accomodating programs - while status credits are cancelled automatically, points can be used up to 12 months after the death of a member by the executors of the estate.

On the less-forgiving side, Qantas Frequent Flyer, Singapore Airlines' KrisFlyer and Cathay Pacific's Asia Miles all state that your account will be cancelled when you die and any points earned will also be automatically cancelled.

The KrisFlyer program specifically says that points "do not constitute personal property and may not be bequeathed".

You could try and get around this policy is to give family access and transfer the points before the account is closed. However, this could cause some trouble.

The account will only be closed once the airline is informed of the death. However, if your family were to transfer points after the fact, it could be considered a breach of terms as the account is considered automatically cancelled.

So if Qantas were to discover this, it could be considered a "matierial breach" of the terms and conditions and they could reverse the transfer or cancel your family member's account.

Asia Miles can also cancel a membership if it believes you have
"misused Asia Miles programme benefits" - with no chance to respond.

In New Zealand the practice is less clear cut.

On our national carrier, it is standard procedure for Air New Zealand Airpoints accounts to be closed once the company "are made aware an Airpoints member has passed away."

However, in 2014 Christchurch woman Jaclyn Philpott was able to override this and successfully use her late father's unspent Airpoints to book return flights to Hawaii.

The story, reported by Newshub, told how Air New Zealand would refuse to honour the tickets and they would be "voided at the gate" unless she could provide a copy of her father's will proving that she had been left the points.

Fortunately she was able to do this and was issued with new tickets to Hawaii.

"If Air New Zealand receives written direction from the executor of an Airpoints member's estate, we will distribute the Airpoints Dollar balance into the accounts of the beneficiaries," said Hannah Searle, of Air New Zealand.

So, it seems the best thing for those wishing to pass on posthumous air miles is to state so explicitly in their will - just like Anthony Bourdain did.