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Savings-Bonds-Alert: Terminally ill owner of Savings Bonds

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Terminally ill owner of Savings Bonds

My mother has terminal lung cancer and is too ill to take care of this, so I told her I would do it for her. She has a lot of series EE savings bonds. Some of the bonds are in her name along with my younger sister who died three years ago. I really don't know that much about bonds and what to do with them. Tom's response I'm sorry to hear about your mother. When someone dies, everything they own becomes a part of their "estate", which is legally split up in a process that's commonly referred to as "probate." If your mother has a will, it will determine how the estate is split. If she doesn't have a will, the estate is split according to state law. The person who oversee this process of splitting up the estate is called the Executor of the estate. The Executor typically has to hire a lawyer to file all the legal paperwork. Both will charge the estate fees for their work. These fees are often based on a percentage of the estate. In addition, it takes about six months or longer to complete this process. The heirs have no access to the money in the estate until the process is complete. However, Savings Bonds and mutual funds have a beneficiary designation that overrides this whole process. The designated beneficiaries have immediate access to the money, which will not have to go through the probate process. In your case, if you don't make any changes, your mother's bonds will go into her estate. When your sister died, the bonds with her name and your mother's became your mother's bonds. On the other hand, if your mother is willing and able, it would be her heirs advantage to have the registration on the savings bonds changed. She should remain the owner and make her heirs the beneficiaries on the bonds. Since each registration can have only two names, you may have to split the bonds up into groups - one for each heir. And to do that farily, you'll need to know how much the bonds are worth right now. Click here for details on changing the registration on the bonds, including the forms you'll need. You should also download and print out Public Debt Form 5188, Durable Power of Attorney for Securities and Savings Bonds Transactions. Have your mom sign it and have it notorized, which health care facilities should be able to help you with. This allows you to change the registration on the savings bonds without further signatures from your mother.


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