DID YOU CASH THOSE SAVINGS BONDS YOU GOT AS A KID?

Excerpts from article in the Detroit Free Press on January 23, 2014 by Susan Tompor

The funny thing about giving U.S. savings bonds as a gift for a child’s birthday or other big event is that it doesn’t hurt to nudge the child who turned into a grown-up and ask, hey, did you ever cash those bonds?

Billions of dollars in savings bonds have stopped earning interest but haven’t been cashed. We’re now talking about savings bonds issued in January 1984 and earlier that reached final maturity after 30 years.  Other bonds issued in 1984 will stop earning interest later this year, depending on what month they were issued.

Who could complain if they were able to uncover $500 or $1,000 of their own bonds just somehow sitting there uncashed? Currently, there are about 47 million unredeemed matured savings bonds worth $16.1 billion.

A few months ago, I did my own bonds search via the U.S. Treasury Department website at www.treasuryhunt.gov. I took a look on the off chance that I lost some savings bonds of my own. When you use Treasury Hunt, you plug in your Social Security number and other information online to find savings bonds that reached final maturity and are no longer earning interest. The Treasury Hunt program can find bonds that were issued in 1974 and after, not earlier. Social Security numbers were not required on bonds until 1974.

After I completed the Treasury Hunt, I was alerted via e-mail that, yes, I had bonds that had matured. How much were they worth? I didn’t know at this point. To get more information, I’d have to file Form PD F 1048. It’s not an overly cumbersome process and if there’s money to be found, it’s worth it.

About six weeks or so after the paperwork was sent, I received a phone call. Using my Social Security number, the Treasury tracked down that a gift bond existed under my number and someone else’s name. The woman did not tell me the name on those bonds. But I quickly guessed it had to be one of my sister’s kids. I bought bonds in the past in the child’s name and my sister’s name. After more research, our family pegged the uncashed bonds to a little girl who had a Holy Communion at St. Florian Church in Hamtramck in 1983. My niece, now a mother of two, had not cashed a group of her bonds that reached full maturity in 2013, or 30 years after she received those gifts.

Once I told her what I uncovered, she dug in her files and found the bonds. And she spotted other savings bonds, too. She ended up looking at an unexpected windfall of $1,955.92 for four bonds bought in 1983 and a fifth bond bought in 1984 that will stop paying more money in interest in April. A bond with a $500 face value in her group was worth $1,153.20 once she cashed it. She will need to pay taxes on $903.20 in interest on that one bond.

What’s the lesson here? It does not hurt to do a Treasury Hunt. It may be possible that you bought some bonds as gifts, and the bonds never got cashed 30 years or more later. It’s OK to do such searches maybe once a year or so because bonds can show up as they reach their final maturity each month. There’s a chance that your search could turn up bonds you bought as gifts using your Social Security number. “There’s a lot of bonds out there with other people’s Social Security numbers,” said Daniel Pederson, who has a Monroe-based blog about savings bonds. That’s because so many bonds were bought as gifts in years past. Decades ago, children didn’t get Social Security numbers at birth. And if the purchaser did not know the Social Security number of the designated owner or co-owner, the purchaser could have used his or her own number.

The next time you see a loved one, it might be a good time to ask, “Hey, did you ever cash those savings bonds?”

If you have any questions, please call Karen L. Stewart, Attorney and Counselor at (248) 735-0900

For more information, please see my website www.CustomEstatePlans.com.

 

 

Remember: It is important to fund your Revocable Living Trust

To achieve full benefit from a living trust, it is important that appropriate action be taken to transfer assets into trustee ownership.  This process is often referred to as “funding” the trust.  Any asset that is transferred to your trust while you are living does not go through the probate court upon your death, but instead, passes under the terms of the trust in a private manner. Therefore, funding your Trust can save your family lots of time and money in administering your estate!

Funding a living trust consists of the following:

  • Retitling your bank accounts into your name as trustee of your trust
  • Retitling the deeds to real estate into your trust name
  • Retitling stocks, bonds and investment accounts into your trust name
  • Retitling business interests into your trust name
  • Naming the successor trustee of your trust as beneficiary on life insurance policies
  • Naming your successor trustee as beneficiary of annuities
  • Naming your trust as beneficiary of retirement benefits, if appropriate.  There are income tax consequences to be considered, so this should be discussed with me or your tax advisor.

There can be other unintended consequences of not funding your trust.  For instance, if life insurance is payable to a minor, a conservatorship will need to be established through the probate court and the life insurance company will pay out to the conservator, and not to your successor trustee.  Your trust may say to hold funds for your children until they are 30 years old, but the conservator can only hold the funds until your child is 18 years old and then the whole ball of wax is turned over to the child!  Not to mention the added time and money spent on hearings and accountings to the court.

Please make sure you haven’t set up a beautiful revocable living trust that is an empty shell.  You can make an appointment with me at any time to review the funding of your trust and make sure you are on the right track.

If you have any questions, please call Karen L. Stewart, Attorney and Counselor at (248) 735-0900.

For more information, please see my website, www.customestateplans.com.