Possession is 0% of the law

Thursday, December 9th, 2004
Categorized as: Inheriting and bequeathing US Savings BondsLost or stolen US Savings BondsSavings Bond registration changes

My great uncle had two $1,000 series E savings bonds. In July 1978 he gave me his WW II footlocker with its contents. He died in 1979 with no wife or children. His only relative was my grandmother. I found the bonds by accident three months ago in the footlocker. When I filled out the forms to cash them, the Treasury said I couldn’t have the money and instead gave it (almost $15,000!) to my father and his brothers and sisters. Whatever happened to possession is 9/10’s of the law?

Tom’s response

Possession is 9/10s of the law isn’t actually the law, particularly when it comes to US Savings Bonds.

In fact, for savings bonds, possession is meaningless. All that counts is the name on the bond. Since the person named on these bonds had died, his heirs become the owners.

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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 July 21st, 2008 matt said:

my fiance had her mother “hold” her bonds, and now that they don’t talk her mother will not give them back. her mother is the POD on the bonds “bennificary basically” and thats all, but the tres dept says that the mother must sign the replacement form. How can she get arround this, as her mother will not do this. help please…

On July 21st, 2008 Tom Adams said:

Matt – there’s no getting around it. My recommendation would be patience, but if you can’t handle that then you have a choice between getting an appointment with a lawyer or a family counselor.

Tom Adams

On July 22nd, 2008 Nik said:

Maybe I need another cup of coffee. Are you saying that if I have designated a POD beneficiary on an I-bond, that I must get that person’s signature on the bond replacement form? What if the POD beneficiary is deceased? What if s/he has moved, cannot be located and we have lost all contact?

On July 23rd, 2008 Tom Adams said:

Nik – The mother needs to sign the replacement form saying the bonds are lost because she’s the last one who had them, not because she’s the POD.

Since she still has them, she won’t sign.

Parents refusing to give their adult children Savings Bonds in the child’s name is common. This is a country in need of a lot of family therapy.

Tom Adams

On July 23rd, 2008 matt said:

i think i mis-stated. the tres dept was never told that the mother had the bonds. They said that reguardless of the location (lost, stolden, distroyed)the pod must sign.

On July 23rd, 2008 Tom Adams said:

Matt – I’m sorry I misunderstood your question. I checked the lost bond form PD F 1048, and sure enough, the instructions say:

This form must be completed and signed by all persons named on the bonds, or by an authorized representative.

So PODs do have to sign the form for claiming lost bonds.

In addition, even if she wasn’t named on the bonds, she would need to submit a statement if she had them last. From the form’s instructions:

SOMEONE ELSE HAD THE BONDS – If another person had possession of the bonds or knowledge of the circumstances of the loss, that person must provide a separate statement explaining the circumstances.

Tom Adams

On July 29th, 2008 Maddy said:

Scenario: 3 teens who were minors when their Gma died dont find out from the PR who is also their father that they inherited US savings bonds. 2 years go by when he slips. Subsequent litigation ends in 2 are now adults and must hire an attorney to go after $2000 in savings bonds. The kids are told that the probate court does not have jurisdiction to order the PR to give them their POD inheritance. So we go to the tresury who tells us that they will NOT reissue the bonds because they are not lost or stolen, their dad has them. And, the tresury tells us we will have to sue him. He did not and does not have custody. So, you may THINK a POD designation means something but as far as the treasury is concerned it means nothing that a little old lady tried to leave saving bonds to the kids and they will not honor this. If you do this GIVE THE BONDS TO THE BENEFICIARY or invest in something else!

On July 30th, 2008 Tom Adams said:

Maddy – on the other hand, their father can’t cash the bonds (or if he does, you can nail him for fraud). So the money is there, gathering interest. Not a perfect situation, but better than it could be.

Tom Adams

On September 26th, 2008 Harold Thomas said:

I have purchased bonds for my children for 35 years and the early bonds had to be listed in my name with them as beneficiary. Is there any way I can give them to my children without my getting the tax hit?

On September 26th, 2008 jane said:

My late father had bonds with his children as the beneficicay’s. My mother has refused to show us or give us the bonds. Many are over 30 years old. Her name is not on the bonds at all. My father & his childs name were the only ones named on the bonds. With only his social security number & name, what can I do?


On September 29th, 2008 Tom Adams said:

Harold – 35-year-old bonds are no longer earning interest. We call them stinkers around here. Cash them in, pay the taxes, reinvest in new bonds with your children as co-owners, and live another 30 years. The only way to transfer the tax on the bonds you own now to your children is to die. Not recommended.

Jane – This is what Probate Courts are for. Was your father’s estate settled properly? You need to talk to a lawyer.

Tom Adams

On November 4th, 2008 Desirae said:

I’m getting divorced, is there anyway to take my ex husbands name off the savings bonds I have? He’s not a co-owner, they were just mailed to him and it says POD his name.

On November 5th, 2008 Tom Adams said:

Desirae – the information you’re looking for is here.

Tom Adams

On November 21st, 2008 Rachel said:

I won a savings bond back in high school (1991). My dad tried to cash it in back in (1994), however they wouldn’t let him cash it because it had my name on it. Now no one will cash it in for me because he endorsed it, thinking he could cash it. What do I do?

On November 21st, 2008 Tom Adams said:

Hi Rachel – Your bank should cash it for you. If they refuse, ask them what you need to do. Be polite but persistent. It might help to call rather than going in person.

Tom Adams

On December 10th, 2008 Kathleen said:

I am in possession of 4 $50.00 savings bonds that were given to me for rent/living expenses by one of my children’s friends. From what I’ve read here I obviously can’t cash them, so what do I do with them?

On December 11th, 2008 Tom Adams said:

Kathleen – you need to get the owner to cash them and give you the money.

Tom Adams

On June 15th, 2009 chris r said:

I recently purchased a delinquent storage locker and everything inside….inside I found several E savings bonds..am I able to cash these in since I purchased the contents of the locker? Can you give me any information on this? Thanks so much

On June 18th, 2009 Tom Adams said:

Chris – This article already tells you the answer to your question. No, you cannot cash the bonds. Possession of the bonds is meaningless. If you can find the owners, they might pay you a finders fee, but it’s their option.

Tom Adams

On August 6th, 2009 Trish said:

After reading these edifying and occasionally appalling messages, I can now appreciate the merit of Treasury Direct electronic registration.

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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