U.S. Savings Bond questions, Inherited and not.

Started by

My 92-year old Mother was a very private person, I did not know she had Savings Bonds in our Joint names.
I have not been able to find canceled checks or registers describing them.
Neither can I find 1040 Federal or State tax forms.
Her banks have no record of Safe Deposit Boxes.

I think there might be Bonds sticking somewhere unknown.
How can I identify the institution where she bought the Bonds,
or find a list of her Bonds without having the Bonds?

How am I taxed on the Bond purchase price
and the generated interest?

She also has Bonds in her own name.
Will these be taxed differently?

I expect replies of "Hire an accountant", etc.
Don't waste your ink;
I've been down that road
with disappointing results.

I have coined the phrase;
"10% of Professionals graduated in the top 10% of their class,
the other 90% graduated in the bottom 90%"

I value "Been there - done that" replies greatly.
Thanks a LOT.


My husband has had some experience with both his mother and grandmother's bonds. When granny died, there was a choice to either cash the bonds and split the money or keep the bonds and have the name(s) changed on them. Many of the bonds had reached maturity and/or the type of bond had become obsolete (she had war bonds and E bonds) and those will not be renewed, they must be cashed in. Obviously the POA/executor was in charge of this and I know he had to go through not just a regular bank, but a Treasury Bank - many large cities have at least one. I think you may be able to ascertain through such a bank that your mother may indeed have bonds, but I'm sure you would need POA to find out - they were very insistent on that.
Get answers directly from the Federal Reserve -Do not depend on individuals advice.
As a person who works at a bank, if there are bonds in her name you must go to the Fed Reserve to have them transferred to your name or The executor's name. The bonds that exist in your joint names are okay to cash. You will only be taxed if the interest gained is over $10,000.

Other times when a person dies and banks catch this notice, if there are any save deposit boxes or anything in a bank that belonged to her will to to the state. The State holds unclaimed deposit box contents. How to reach them, I am not sure.
I am a retired Internal Revenue Agent. Interest is not only taxable if it is over $10,000. Tax law says, all income, from whatever source derived, is taxable. I have not looked up the law as it currently relates to bonds jointly owned and/or individually owned. I am assuming your mother is deceased. As such, you have what is called a "stepped-up" basis on her assets. In other words, the basis of the assets is determined as of the date of her death (there is an alternative valuation date that I'm not going to address since I don't have enough information), rather than her cost. You also need to know if she has been reporting the interest on the bonds as it accrued. Also, is there an executor, will, estate, etc. Has an estate tax return been filed? Also on the joint bonds, were they truly joint or were you listed as the beneficiary? You may be able to get some help from your local IRS office, but you may need professional help (sorry). Maybe you could get help from a local law school or accounting college. Most have students that help people with legal, accounting and tax issues. Usually these are honor students that are overseen by instructors.
If I am not mistaken, with the proper documentation, you can get a list of all outstanding bonds in your mother's SS number from the Federal Reserve. As for contents of deposit boxes, when unclaimed assets from all sources (such as deposits with utility companies, bank accounts, etc.) are sent to the states, the states retain lists by name, address and social security numbers. In most states, if not all, it is public information and is available on-line. It is even printed in papers, I think, once a year. Be sure to check all states where she might have put things.
Good luck.
How do you know she had the bonds? Didn't the person who told you about them have clues to their whereabouts?
Here in PA, financial institutions turn in to the state any stagnant assets. It takes a while, but eventually they become the property of the state's treasury office and are cataloged on an on-line, searchable database. I found an old, forgotten account there one time. Your state might have something similar.
If the bonds were not too, too old, they were purchased with someone's social security number (either the purchaser or the named owner). I know there's a website where you can enter the serial number of the bond to get its value, I don't know if you can enter the SS # of the bond, too, but it might be worth checking.
Notwell & Isn't have it spot-on!

I'd like to add my experience. Savings bonds!!!. Nothing like doing it old school style. Imho you have 2 different issues here: 1. Ownership of the bonds (whose assets they are) and 2. How bonds work.

I was executrix for an aunt who loved doing E bonds both as a way of saving $ & as gifts - you name the occasion (graduation, wedding, birthday) she gave them and did it as co-owner and a few as POD. When she died, some bonds where still being held by the persons she gave them to. Why they still held them was varied: some had not matured (usually 30 years), some being held for college & some because they didn't know wtf what to do with them. Bonds showed her & them as co-owners. You DO NOT need both owners signature to redeem bonds, you just need 1 of the persons listed on the bond to redeem. So none of the bonds were included in her estate, they were the property of the co-owner, as you need only 1 person to claim ownership of the asset to redeem them. The co-owner claimed ownership.They were NOT my aunt's asset, this according to the probate judge. BUT the bonds issued POD (not as co-owners) would be part of her estate but not subject to probate because they were POD (like a bank account POD). If bonds are POD, you need a certified death certificate to redeem or re-register them. How the bonds were done & how they are held likely will make a big difference as to whether it's an asset for her estate AND what the intention was for the bonds. Same thing if she is still alive and you are trying to figure out if the bonds are an asset for Medicaid. You should talk with an elder care attorney to see what the viewpoint is on bonds are for your area in dealing with Medicaid and probate later on is always a good thing.

Tax wise bonds, I don't think, exist until redeemed or re-registered??? So I bet they really aren't going to show up on Medicaid financial radar. I was dealing with old school style paper bonds (before the electronic ones they do now) so that might have changed.

You need to look at the bonds to see maturity date. Redeeming them before then (could be 10, 20, 30 years) could cost.

One last thing, banks aren't selling bonds anymore. So most banks will not redeem them at all & you have to go to the Treasury Dept on-line to do this. Good luck!
I was not aware banks would not redeem them anymore. Having worked for the government I had them taken out of my paycheck to save for my grandchildren's education. I guess I had better check it out. I just had them sitting in the safe, not worrying about them since they were still accruing interest.
Igloo, I forgot to add, tax wise it depends of how they have been being reported. Because I took out bonds for the grandkid's education, I reported the interest as it accrued so the taxable interest would not be much at the time they were cashed. Of course, then Congress changed the tax laws so it really did not matter, but I tried to do tax planning. If only we could anticipate what Congress was going to do. Whole nother issue!
Banks where you have an account will cash them for you. I recently cashed in some EE Bonds, both as owner and co-owner. But check with your Bank, some require that you have an account with them for 6 months. They issued a check to me and of course i will pay the taxes on the interest. The bank notifies the Govt of interest owed. For more info go to www Treasury Direct.Gov
notwell & samm - I found out about the bond/bank snafu a couple of years back. I too thought that cashing in bonds would be simple, easy, no worries. I was executrix back in the 1990's and dealing w/my late aunts bonds that was the case then. Flashforward to a couple of years ago, for end of the year awards the PTO had always given out savings bonds to 2 kids (I was treasurer). PTO doing it since forever. When we went to buy them found out banks were given an opt out by Treasury to participate as the on-line feature was available. This banking group will do it but have to be an existing customer and by appointment at a larger office. We ended up doing a Journey-Ed gift card instead (not that the kids wouldn't prefer a Target or Amazon one, lmao). Just a shame to make saving harder.

Keep the conversation going (or start a new one)

Please enter your Comment

Ask a Question

Reach thousands of elder care experts and family caregivers
Get answers in 10 minutes or less
Receive personalized caregiving advice and support