A U.S. Savings Bond is an investment option with relatively low risk that can provide a stable income in later years. However, sometimes owners of U.S. Savings Bonds pass away before they have the opportunity to cash in the bonds or transfer ownership to someone else. The U.S. Treasury provides simple ways to handle the transfer of ownership of a bond after a death.
A U.S. Savings Bond is a registered security, meaning that the U.S. Department of Treasury has a record of who owns the bond. This makes it easier for the Treasury to control how people cash out the bonds and reduces instances of fraud. Because U.S. Savings Bonds are registered securities, you cannot simply sign them over to a new owner. You have to have the bond reissued by the Treasury so the new owner's name appears on the bond.
Reissuing via TreasuryDirect
TreasuryDirect is the website for the U.S. Department of Treasury through which people may purchase and manage savings bonds and other government securities. In an effort to reduce paper waste, the Treasury now prefers transactions take place on this website via free TreasuryDirect accounts. To request that the bond of a deceased individual be reissued via this website, you must create an entity account, specifically for a "deceased estate," on TreasuryDirect as an estate executor or other legally authorized party, as bonds that belonged to only one person who has passed away become the property of the deceased individual's estate. You will need the deceased individual's Social Security Number or identification number of the estate to do this. You also will need to provide documentation verifying your authority to represent the estate. The person in whose name you want the Treasury to reissue the bond must have or create a regular account.
Reissue by Mail
It is often easier to request a savings bond reissue via mail, because you need to show the Treasury you have the authority to work with the bond. Sometimes you still have to send PD F 4000 E to the bureau, even if you try to request a reissue via TreasuryDirect. To request a reissue by mail, download, print off and fill out PD F 4000 E, Request to Reissue United States Savings Bonds, from TreasuryDirect. The form provides the opportunity to clarify who owned the bond, who should be listed in the reissue, and that the reissue is necessary due to the death of the bond owner. You must have this form certified by a qualified financial officer -- a public notary does not count. It is a good idea to make copies of letters from the court that show you are legally authorized to work with the bond and present them at the time of certification. Send additional copies with the completed, certified form to the Department of Treasury, Bureau of Public Debt. This bureau will send the reissued bond back via the mail.
Generally, you must ask the Treasury to reissue a bond only if there is no one else named on the bond who still is living. If the bond lists more than one owner, then the surviving owner simply holds onto the bond. To cash in the bond, the surviving owner presents the bond, along with sufficient identification, at any branch of the Treasury. The Treasury treats surviving owners as if they were the sole owner from the time of issuance. As long as the Treasury has a record of the death or you can provide evidence of it, surviving owners can easily transfer ownership of the bond to someone else or request reissue of the bond in their names via PD F 4000 E or Treasury Direct accounts.
Wanda Thibodeaux is a freelance writer and editor based in Eagan, Minn. She has been published in both print and Web publications and has written on everything from fly fishing to parenting. She currently works through her business website, Takingdictation.com, which functions globally and welcomes new clients.