Family’s well-hidden Savings Bonds found in trash

Monday, July 24th, 2006
Categorized as: Inheriting and bequeathing US Savings Bonds

The moral of this story is that you can be too careful when deciding where to keep your Savings Bonds. The problem is that you can forget where you hid them or you die and your family throws them out.

Ernest Lehto, a Detoit postal service worker, invested $4,450 in Savings Bonds in the 1980s. He kept them in the vest pocket of a suit coat in his closet. Since he died in 2004, family members say, they have found other securities in photo envelopes and other odd places.

After his death, his family donated Lehto’s clothing to charity.

Charles Moore, 59, who had recently lost his roofing job in Toledo and had moved to Detroit, was looking through trash containers for returnable cans and bottles when Lehto’s bonds slid out of a bag of clothing. Apparently whoever received the clothing neither wore nor re-donated it when it was no longer needed.

Unlike the reporters and award givers who have made a hero out of him, Moore knew he couldn’t the cash the bonds – he didn’t even count them. “They’re no good to nobody but the person (named),” he said correctly. So he took them to a shelter where he often eats breakfast and asked the staff to help him find the owners.

Cincarla Hardge called information and got three phone numbers. The second one she called was Lehto’s widow. “It didn’t take but a second,” Hardge said.

Neil Lehto, an attorney and Ernest Lehto’s son, gave Moore a small reward, but if Moore and Hardge had a lost property firm, they might have gotten 20% or more of the $21,000 value of the bonds. Moore’s action has received a lot of publicity, however, and as a result he has a new job.

The original story was published in the July 22 Detroit News, Homeless man gets $100 after finding $21K in bonds. For a followup, see WXYZ TV‘s Homeless Man Rewarded For Good Deed.

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FDIC Insured Certificates of Deposit can pay 1 or 2% more than savings bonds when held for a similar length of time. See top CD Rates Below:


On August 16th, 2006 baselle said:

Last August, my sister and I went through 3 generations of stuff. We found four savings bonds in the process. That’s why I immediately converted my 2 through Treasury Direct. Finding savings bonds is a chore that I don’t want to do and a hassle that don’t want to put my heirs through!

On June 1st, 2007 Carol Cohen said:

My grandparents died in 1968 & 1988,I was told that there was some savings Bonds left in the hous. Since then, I heard the State took over the house for back taxes. How can I find out about these Bonds & possesions?!

On June 1st, 2007 Tom Adams said:

Carol – your grandparents’ heirs can send a letter to the Treasury and ask for a search of the Savings Bond records. If a record of the bonds is found, you can have them replaced. You’ll need to provide your grandparents’ death certificates and Social Security Numbers. Details on what to put in your letter and where to send are in my post Get a List of Your Savings Bonds.

Tom Adams

On February 21st, 2008 Mary Moha said:

My sister passed away in August 2007. She had 154 bonds that were in her name & her deceased husband(died in 1984). I am the P.O.A. of the estate. 71 of them are mature($35,985 interest) and 83 are not. Before the end of 2007, I contacted my CPA and he said I should wait until 2008 to cash them. Now my attorney said there was a way I could have avoided the 2007 taxes if I cashed them in that year. Does he mean I should’ve changed the names on them??? I am in the process of cashing in the 71 bonds. I don’t really need the money and will probably give the money to my grandchildren. Would it be a better idea to change the names to my grandkids on them and give them the bonds? I’m in a quandary. Help!! Mary Moha

On February 22nd, 2008 Tom Adams said:

Hi Mary – this website has hundreds of pages; I’m curious how you ended up on this particular one to ask this question.

Your question is way too complicated to answer in a comment like this, but just tell your CPA or your attorney to get a copy of my book and spend a weekend reading it. Or you can read it yourself.

The reader will then be able to give you all the advice you need about how to best handle this situation. There are several options with various pros and cons but a real difference in tax savings. There’s a link to Amazon’s page on the book at the right (click on the photo of the book).

Tom Adams

On August 17th, 2009 Cathi Hagen said:

My husband has 3 series E bonds purchased in 1943 by his deceased father. His mother is passed now also can these be cashed?

On August 18th, 2009 Tom Adams said:

Cathi – Yes, the bonds can be cashed. The question is who can cash them. Assuming they weren’t awarded by a probate court to someone at his father’s death (unlikely), then this form is probably what you’re looking for.

Tom Adams

On February 12th, 2010 Tom McDermott said:

Help!! I purchased savings bonds, and cashed in all that I had found, how can I determine if I still have some outstanding savings bonds and can request them to be reissued or cash them out, since I originally purchased them in the 1970’s?

On February 15th, 2010 Tom Adams said:

Tom – the info you’re looking for is here.

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 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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