Adding a co-owner or beneficary to a Savings Bond registration

Wednesday, July 21st, 2004
Categorized as: Savings Bond registration changes

Adding a co-owner or changing the beneficiary of a Savings Bond never causes a taxable event, so it’s a simple case to deal with:

  • Forms:
  • Warnings and Cautions:
    • You must sign the form and your signature must be certified by a bank – don’t sign the back of the Savings Bonds themselves
    • The Treasury won’t reissue paper bonds to update an address or to change denominations unless a bond is being split between heirs or parties to a divorce
    • Changing the beneficiary on the older and no longer issued Series E or Series H bonds requires the consent of the current beneficiary
    • A new co-owner must be related to you by blood or marriage
    • Keep in mind that a Savings Bond registration can have only a co-owner or a beneficiary, not both
    • Without creating a taxable event, the first-named or principal owner of a Savings Bond can:
      • remove or change the beneficiary
      • remove the beneficiary and add a co-owner
      • remove or change the second-named owner or co-owner
      • remove the co-owner and add a beneficiary
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65 Comments

On August 15th, 2007 Zoe Ann Stephens said:

I buy savings bonds for my grandchildren as birthday gifts. Should I list the parent as co-owner or as beneficiary? Are there any tax ramifications when the bonds are cashed regarding co-owner or beneficiary? Also, some of my grandchildren are over 21 now – should the parent be co-owner or beneficiary on their bonds? I don’t know my grandchildrens’ SS#’s so I use the SS# of the listed parent. Is that OK? I also have a granddaughter with Down’s Syndrome who will be 18 this Fall and her parents will become her legal guardians. Should I list a co-owner or beneficiary on her bonds? Thanks.

On August 16th, 2007 Tom Adams said:

Zoe Ann – All of these registration possibilities exist because each of them is right for someone. I can’t advise you which is best for you without knowing more about your specific wishes.

In general, making a parent a beneficiary would make things a bit easier in case one of the children dies, but the parents would inherit the bond with or without a beneficiary or co-owner designation.

Making a parent a co-owner gives the parent more control and the child less control over the bond than making the child the sole owner. Some people prefer to take the control out of the hands of the parent and some prefer to put it into the hands of the parents. In any case, a parent can sign for a minor child and cash the bond whether you want them to or not.

Your granddaughter with Down’s Syndrome probably isn’t able to handle her own financial affairs, so those bonds are a special problem. While a fiduciary or voluntary guardian can file special forms to cash her bonds, you have to judge how much you trust her fiduciary. It can be a great simplification to make the fiduciary a co-owner of the bonds if the fiduciary has your trust.

The SSN on the bond is used only to track the bond in case it is lost. If these gift bonds are lost and your children or grandchildren need to have the Treasury search for them, it’s much better to have the child’s SSN on the bond; if people think to look for them under a second SSN at all it will be yours – the giver of the bonds – not their parent’s.

The only tax angle is that the interest may be tax deductible if the children go to college. However, for that to work, the bonds have to be in the name of the parent. If the child (or you) is owner or co-owner, the tax deduction isn’t available. The child could be the beneficiary.

Tom Adams

On September 24th, 2007 Jennifer Williams said:

My daughter who is 13 now was given a series EE savings bond at birth in 8/1994 for $50.00. This bond was actually listed with her name but her father’s social security no. This has never been changed. We have lived in Australia for over 12 years and I am divorced from her father and she lives with me and has basically no contact with her father.

What can I do from Australia to get this sorted out to reflect all her details etc so as when this matures she can cash it in.

On September 24th, 2007 Tom Adams said:

Hi Jennifer – it’s typical with gift bonds for the SSN and person not to match. It won’t prevent your daughter from being able to cash it. You’ll also be interested in our post on cashing Savings Bonds internationally.

Tom Adams

On October 6th, 2007 John Deyloff said:

We have 5-$100 EE Savings Bonds that I purchased and, not knowing better at the time, they are only in my estranged son’s name. Can I add myself as co-owner and cash these bonds? Is there any other way to cash these bonds?

On October 8th, 2007 Tom Adams said:

Hi John – Your son is the sole-owner of the bonds. Just as he can’t add himself as co-owner to your bonds, you can’t yourself as co-owner to his bonds (even if you gave him the bonds).

Tom Adams

On October 15th, 2007 Murray Moskowitz said:

I have a number of EE Bonds issued in 1986. Is there any way I could add my daughter’s (or Grandson who is in college)name as a co-owner of the bonds?

On October 15th, 2007 John Miller said:

I have several E bonds, some of which have been matured for approx. 11 yrs now. What are the penalties for not cashing them in until now, and how do I go about doing so?

On October 16th, 2007 Tom Adams said:

Murray – Yes, there is a way you can add someone as a co-owner. Download the form mentioned on this page (Public Debt Form 4000) and just read and follow the instructions printed on the form.

John – The penalty you’re paying is 11 years of lost interest, which is huge. There is no penalty to cash these – but there’s a penalty every day for holding them. For more info on how to redeem them see how to cash in a Savings Bond.

Tom Adams

On October 22nd, 2007 LynnMary said:

My mother who expired 2005 and myself were joint in the bonds. I want to change bonds back to my legal maiden name and designate my niece and nephews as beneficiaries bonds purchased in 1977, 1978 and 1979 and ….. How can I also find out value of these bonds. Thank you.

On October 23rd, 2007 Tom Adams said:

Hi LynnMary – there’s a link to the form you need to make the registration changes in the information at the top of this page. Include a copy of your mother’s death certificate so that the changes aren’t processed as a taxable event. Also, at the top right there’s a Savings Bond Calculator that will tell you what your bonds are worth.

On October 27th, 2007 Murray Moskowitz said:

As a co-owner of my EE Bonds may my daughter use the Bonds to pay for her son’s (my grandson’s) college tuition?

On October 28th, 2007 Tom Adams said:

Hi Murry – in the context of the Savings Bond education deduction, if there is a co-owner, it must be the spouse of the person taking the deduction. Here’s complete information on the Savings Bond education deduction.

Tom Adams

On November 5th, 2007 John William said:

I want to help my sister pay off her mortgage before she retires so I was considering giving her approximately $60,000 worth of my EE bonds. I understand that I can do this by having the bonds reissued naming her as a co-owner with me. We’ve agreed that she will be responsible for the Federal income taxes due when she cashes the bonds in within the next two years. Are there other tax liability considerations that I am not aware of, such as would this transfer via a reissue be subject to Federal gift tax provisions? Thanks for any help you can give me.

On November 6th, 2007 Tom Adams said:

Hi John – The Treasury doesn’t consider adding a co-owner to a Savings Bond registration a taxable event. Moreover, the Treasury tells banks to use the Social Security Number of the co-owner cashing the bond on the 1099-INT that reports the interest income to the IRS. So from the Treasury’s point of view, what you’re suggesting will work.

However, you should know that from the point of view of the IRS, you are still the principal owner and the one who owes the tax. For more info, see my post Who pays the taxes?

As for gift tax, at this point you would need to file a form because the gift is over $10,000. Whether you would actually ever owe any gift tax depends on the size of your estate. For more info, see my post Savings Bonds and gift tax.

Tom Adams

On November 13th, 2007 murray moskowitz said:

Is there any way to avoid the huge taxes on a $1000 bond purchased in Oct. 1986 if I give the bond to my daughter or her son(my grandson) who is attending college?

On November 14th, 2007 Tom Adams said:

Hi Murray – you asked this question yesterday and I answered it on the Savings Bond education deduction post.

On November 27th, 2007 John Chandler said:

Hi, I purchased several savings bonds in my name but with my son as the beneficiary. Several years ago my son passed away. My son was never married nor had any children. At this time i do not wish to add new beneficiaries to the bonds. Do I need to get the bonds re issued to be in my name only? If I don’t have them re issued and I die would they automatically go into my estate if I were to die without removing my son as the beneficiary?

On November 28th, 2007 Tom Adams said:

Hi John – you aren’t required to remove the name of a beneficiary who has died.

Legally, the bonds are now sole-owner bonds and you’re the owner. If you die, they will go into your estate with the rest of your assets and be distributed according to your will.

Tom Adams

On February 2nd, 2008 Arthur Epstein said:

NOV.6th answer to question you used old Gift Tax
amount of over $10,000 which shoud be over $12,000 per year.

On April 5th, 2008 Rodney Butler said:

What do I need to do to change the beneficiaries of my EE and I bonds?

On April 7th, 2008 Tom Adams said:

Hi Rodney – Assuming we’re talking about paper rather than electronic bonds, just fill out Public Debt Form 4000 as described above.

Tom Adams

On July 5th, 2008 Cathy Chiasson said:

I have downloaded the form to reissue my parents bonds after my mom’s death. It seems the certifying officer must be a bank rather than a notary. My question is will any bank do this?
Thanks.

On July 7th, 2008 Tom Adams said:

Cathy – any bank has the authority to certify your signature, but, as a practical matter, some banks require that you have an account with them.

Tom Adams

On October 31st, 2008 Joe Nolan said:

First of all, thank you very much for all the information contained in your replies. I was at treasurydirect before finding this site and since their explanations or “lack of” leaves one wanting… Thanks again.
I believe I read every post and I think I know the answer already, I will ask nonetheless. I recently came into many bonds (EE) that were given to me as a child and they mature in 5 months. They are all gift bonds. I happen to owe money to a family member and due to the economy will have a drastic decrease of income this year. I was thinking of adding them as co-owner in lieu of the debt and since I didn’t invest in the bonds….Is it possible? By the way, it’s a rather large some of money, over 15k.

On October 31st, 2008 Tom Adams said:

Hi Joe – When you say the bonds will mature in 5 months, do you mean they will stop paying interest? Or that they will reach face value?

Since your income is down this year, it’s actually a good time to cash the bonds, as you’ll pay less in income tax on the interest the bonds have earned.

I don’t personally see what benefit your family member would get out of being a co-owner with you unless you also let that family member hold the bonds – in which case they could be cashed without your knowledge or permission.

So I’m probably missing something in your question.

Tom Adams

On October 31st, 2008 Joe Nolan said:

Sorry Tom, I misspoke. My relative’s income this year will be much less than mine. He is in construction and with the housing glut, etc..

I basically want to “give” him a portion of the bonds in lieu of the debt I owe him.

The bonds will be fully matured in 5 months (30 years old), therefore co-ownership sounded like a good idea if it is possible (legal).

On November 3rd, 2008 Tom Adams said:

Joe – scroll up and see my comment of Nov 6, 2007. Basically the situation is that the IRS wants you do it one way but the Treasury is happy to help you do it the other way.

Tom Adams

On December 7th, 2008 Len said:

I have several valuable e-bonds from the 1940’s and 50’s.

They almost all have my Mother and someone else, all of whom including my Mother are dead. They are listed as X OR Y. Can the legal interpretation of OR (as opposed to say WITH)in this instance mean she had the right to put it in her estate. She died before the OR parties, and I wish to cash the bonds as I am the sole heir and was the sole administrator.

LF

On December 8th, 2008 Tom Adams said:

Len – the OR means that when your mother died, the other person named on the bonds became the sole owner. Since they all died after your mother, the bonds legally belong in their estates and not your mother’s.

Tom Adams

On January 24th, 2009 ART said:

My question to you is this: I recently found a bag of savings bonds on a job site that was being torn down. They are E bonds from the late 40’s and early 50’s. I tried to see if the people on the bonds were still alive. They were a Sr. and Jr. father/son combo. The Jr. would have been 91 years old, but he and his wife have passed away. They did not have any children. Is there a way that I could cash them in? I’m not quite sure what to do. It seems like a waste if they can’t be cashed in.

On January 26th, 2009 Tom Adams said:

Art – see this.

Tom Adams

On February 24th, 2009 rebecca said:

Hi Tom, I’m hoping you can help. My daughter received a few savings bonds for her 1st birthday. She’s 2.5 yrs old now. I’ve read that I could file a tax return in her name to claim the interest yearly from her bonds, to save her money in the long run. The bonds are made out to her, but they have my name on them as well (2 of them are OR [me] at the bottom, and one is MAIL TO [me]) I don’t know if that means I’m the co-owner or beneficiary. Can I still have my daughter claim the interest on these in her own tax return, or is that not possible because they have my name and SSN on them? Also, if I can file a tax return for her, where do I claim the interest – I don’t have a 1099INT because they are not cashed (issued in 2007) I would really appreciate your help. Thanks in advance! Rebecca

On February 25th, 2009 Tom Adams said:

Hi Rebecca – On the bonds that say OR your name, you’re the co-owner. On the one where your name is just the Mail To name, you are neither co-owner or beneficiary.

In any case, the law now says that the investment income of children under 18 is taxable on the parent’s return, so this technique doesn’t work anymore.

Tom Adams

On April 13th, 2009 kristina said:

I purchased a $500 bond for my 1 year old nephew at a local bank to give to him for his birthday. When I filled out the form I mistakenly put my name as the owner of the bond so now that I received the bond in the mail it says: TO: with my name and then it says MAIL TO: with his name.

How can I change this so that the bond reflects that it belongs to him?

On April 14th, 2009 Tom Adams said:

Kristina – the info you’re looking for is here. The question on that page has to do with a refund, but the process is the same to have the bond reissued in your nephew’s name.

Tom Adams

On April 29th, 2009 Cathy said:

An aunt bought EE bonds when my daughter was a toddler with the intention that they be used to help her pay for college. The bonds are in my name, with my daughter as beneficiary. My daughter is now 21 and in college, and has all of her tuition & fees covered by scholarships (hurray!). But I don’t want the tax liability for these bonds as my aunt intended them for her benefit. Can I change ownership to her name so she can cash them when she needs to, and be liable for the taxes?

On April 30th, 2009 Tom Adams said:

Cathy – The Treasury’s Savings Bond division will let you add your daughter as a co-owner without creating a taxable event (unlike changing the owner). She can cash the bonds and the 1099-INT will be issued under her SSN.

However, the Treasury’s IRS division isn’t happy with this. If challenged by the IRS (which is pretty unlikely), your daughter can argue that you aren’t the principal owner since you didn’t put up the money for the bond. The IRS would likely disagree, since it was registered in your name only and you added her a co-owner. Should it reach this unlikely point, the result probably depends on your daughter’s negotiating skills.

Tom Adams

On May 4th, 2009 Denise said:

My mother passed away in March of this year. My brother and I are the beneficiaries of her assets (through her trust). We found several Series EE bonds that my mother purchased in 1992 that list her ex husband (not our father) as beneficiary. They were not married when she purchased the bonds in 1992. They married in 1996. They have been divorced since 2004. My mother changed all of her investments to reflect my brother and I as beneficiaries after her divorce. We believe she simply forgot about these bonds and never changed the beneficiary. Do we have any right to the bonds if she never removed him as beneficiary after they divorced?

On May 5th, 2009 Tom Adams said:

Denise – Although her intentions may be clear, your mom didn’t follow through and get the paperwork corrected. This is a common problem with trusts.

I don’t know of any way for you to get control of the bonds now.

Tom Adams

On June 30th, 2009 Bruce Sloan said:

I own EE savings bonds as co-owner with my grandson (“Me or My Grandson”). Should I re-title these bonds and put him as POD instead of as co-owner? Are there tax implications for doing so? He is 21 years old and my intention is for him to have the bonds at my death.

On July 1st, 2009 Tom Adams said:

Bruce – Unless you are afraid your grandson is going to steal the bonds from you and cash them, I don’t see any reason to change the registration.

You don’t say how old you are or when the bonds were issued, but my guess is that the bonds will stop paying interest (30 years from the issue date) before you die anyhow. In that case you want to cash them and get new ones (or another investment) rather than leaving them earning no interest.

Tom Adams

On July 9th, 2009 Kellie Martinez said:

Hi Tom,

Over the course of a few years I purchased EE series savings bonds for my grandchildren to use for college. I purchased them however I named their mother as the POD, all the while I have retained possession of the bonds. I have not spoken to my grandchildren or their mother in over 3 years.

Is there a way to change any of the beneficiaries or POD on these bonds? I doubt that I will ever see or speak to them again so basically the money is just sitting there in the form of bonds.

On July 9th, 2009 Tom Adams said:

Kellie – The person who is named POD has no control or power over the bonds unless the person named first dies.

So what’s important to you is not the POD, but whose name comes first? If the first name is your daughter’s or one of your grandchildren, then the bonds simply don’t belong to you and you can’t do anything with them, even though you still have them.

On the other hand, if your name is listed first, then you own the bonds and you can do anything you like with them. In that case, to remove or change the beneficiary (the name listed after POD), just use Public Debt Form 4000. There’s a link to it in the main text above.

Tom Adams

On August 31st, 2009 Beverly said:

I am listed as POD on some bonds from my mother and co owner on others. She has passed away and I need to divide these with my brothers without incurring taxable income. As POD can I add a co owner? As a co owner/ now owner, can I add a co owner? I tried to read the posts to get my answer but didn’t think I saw this and what on read on the link makes me think I can’t establish a co owner since I was not the owner.

On September 2nd, 2009 Tom Adams said:

Beverly – Since your mother has died, you are now the sole owner of all the bonds. Legally, it’s as if only your name was on the bonds.

As the owner, you can add one co-owner to each bond. Use the form mentioned above and include a copy of your mother’s death certificate when you send in the request.

Tom Adams

On September 8th, 2009 Jerri said:

Hi Tom –

My father owned several Series EE savings bonds that were payable to him or my mother. My mom passed away in 1998 and my dad passed away last year.

My father had a “pour-over will.” (A pour-over will is used in conjunction with a Trust. The will “pours” any property the deceased still owned at the time of death into the Trust that the person set up during his or her life.) In his pour-over will, my father left several items, including his savings bonds, to the Family Trust he and my mother set up years ago. I am now the successor trustee of the Family Trust.

Pursuant to the terms of the Family Trust, my brother and I inherited the bonds. I have distributed all of the assets of the Trust except for the savings bonds. My brother and I have agreed that I will pay him 1/2 of the bonds’ current value and have the bonds reissued in my name only.

I have spoken to someone at the Treasury Dept., but he was not sure how to handle the situation. What forms do I need to fill out and what documents do I need to send in order to have the bonds reissued in my name.

Thank you for your assistance,

Jerri

On September 9th, 2009 Tom Adams said:

Jerri – Has a probate court approved the pour-over will?

If not, you don’t really have any documents that show the bonds belong to the trust.

The most complicated part of Savings Bonds has to do with inheritance processes and procedures and they’re just too complicated to get into here. My book goes into great detail on these issues, however.

Tom Adams

On September 21st, 2009 Mark St. Vincent said:

So I have savings bond from 1988 to 1993 and they are all POD and I wanted to know how do I switch them from POD so I can cash them right now for school.

On September 21st, 2009 Tom Adams said:

Mark – If your name comes before the POD then they’re yours and you can cash them now.

If your name comes after the POD, and the person named first has died, then you cash them by presenting a copy of that person’s death certificate.

If the person named first is still alive, the bonds belong to that person, not you. You can’t cash them.

Tom Adams

On November 25th, 2009 Jim Barnhardt said:

My father passed away leaving several ee bonds that list my mother as a co-owner.

Can Mom add a new co-owner or beneficiary to the existing bonds? She doesn’t want to cash them in at this point since they are getting a much better return than anything else out there.

On November 26th, 2009 Gary said:

I purchased $60,000 in 05/2003 and $30,000 in 05/2005. Current inventory report show no or vary little interest from these I bonds. Should I sell or convert??

On November 28th, 2009 Debra balfour said:

what should I do a family member that was a co-owner of bonds recently died what should I do to reassign the names on the bonds.

On November 30th, 2009 Raymond Capistrand said:

Hi, my grandfather has been purchasing me savings bonds since my birth in 1992. He recently passed away and problems have begun to arise surrounding the bonds. Because I am just a co-owner, does that mean that these bonds could go toward paying his bills? Also, if these bonds were to be lost, stolen, or otherwise inaccessible, is there anything I can do without the actual bond numbers? They are registered to me under my SSN. Thanks :)

On November 30th, 2009 Tom Adams said:

Jim and Deborah – see this.

Gary – It depends on what alternative investments are available to you. Do you understand how Series I interest rates work?

Raymond – The bonds are now yours and can’t be redeemed by anyone else. You can recover lost bonds without the serial numbers.

Tom Adams

On December 11th, 2009 Ellyn said:

Can there be two co-owners on a E savings bond?

On December 11th, 2009 Tom Adams said:

Ellyn – there can be two names on an E Savings Bond. If the names are separated by OR they would called co-owners.

There cannot be three names – an owner and two co-owners.

Tom Adams

On December 15th, 2009 Barbara Perlman said:

Is there any website that can tell me if my paper bonds had already been cashed out? I have several paper bonds in my possession -They were owned by a deceased parent so they might have been previously declared lost and replaced in another’s name and possibly already cashed. I have all the serial numbers – when I put them into the calculator I simply get the present values but it doesn’t tell me if they are still ‘alive’.

Please let me know if there’s any way of checking this out before I do all the paperwork of reissuing them. Thank you so much!

On December 16th, 2009 Tom Adams said:

Barbara – There’s no web site, but you can write a letter and find out. Details here.

Tom Adams

On March 2nd, 2010 John Sabene said:

My mother purchased a number of series E bonds for her grandson. He is the only owner listed. My mother holds the bonds and she has decided that she no longer wants her grandson to receive them. Can she change the owner on the bonds without her grandson’s signature?

On March 2nd, 2010 Tom Adams said:

John – no, she can’t. The Treasury doesn’t keep records of who bought the bond – the only name that counts is the one on the bond.

Tom Adams

On April 15th, 2010 Gail Toppin said:

My husband passed in March, 2010 and I, his wife, am listed as POD on his EE bonds. I want to keep the bonds and add our son’s name as co-owner. Do I have to claim the interest now, or just have the names changed on a Public Debt form 4000? I do not want to cash the bonds in at all right now. Thank you.

Gail Toppin

On April 16th, 2010 Tom Adams said:

Gail – No, you do not have the claim the interest now. There’s more info here.

Tom Adams

On May 30th, 2010 Jim Kanki said:

We found a number of “matured” Savings bonds which were in mother and father’s names. They are long deceased. There was no formal “estate” and what little was left was simply split evenly by the four children. We would like to do the same with the bonds but don’t want the tax liability when they are redeemed. Is there a way of dividing the bonds equally and naming each of us as a 25% owner?

Or do we have to redeem the bonds with the proceeds divided equally in fourths and each of us pay our own taxes? How would we do that?

On May 31st, 2010 Tom Adams said:

Jim – Since the bonds are no longer earning interest you can’t change the names on them, you can only cash them. Savings Bond inheritance can get quite complicated. I cover all the details in my book.

Tom Adams

Comments Closed

June 1, 2010

After six years, over 400 posts, 3,680 real comments, and over 90,000 spam comments (thank you, Akismet, for making managing a blog with comments possible), I am closing public comments on Savings-Bond-Advisor.com. I will contine to update the main articles on this site, but not the comments.

Virtually every question about Savings Bonds has been asked and answered on this site multiple times. Use the search feature (see the box in the gray area near the top of this page) or the detailed menu on the lower part of the home page to find the information you're looking for. If you have a copy of Savings Bond Advisor, you can ask me a question here.

Tom Adams

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