The U.S. Treasury offers savings bonds as an investment into the government. Most savings bonds are singly owned; however, some people set up a "payable-on-death" arrangement in which they name a beneficiary, who gets sole ownership of the bond should the original owner die. Beneficiaries can cash payable-on-death bonds if they have proof of the original bond owner's death and of their own identity.
Up to Bank
Banks have discretion as to whether or not they cash a bond for a deceased owner's beneficiary. If the beneficiary has a death certificate for the original owner, and the beneficiary's Social Security number is on the bond, the bank may cash the bond if it wishes to do so. If the bank chooses not to cash the bond, the beneficiary will have to contact the Federal Reserve Board to cash it.
The beneficiary must have a death certificate with the bond owner's name on it and date of death. The death certificate must be certified by the state or local registrar. If the beneficiary does not have a death certificate for the bond owner, she must obtain one and then return to the bank. If the name on the death certificate does not match the owner's name on the bond, the bank must determine whether the certificate refers to the same person before it can cash the bond.
The beneficiary must sign the bond in the presence of a bank official before he can receive cash for the bond. The bank official compares the signature to the beneficiary's name on the bond to make sure they match. If they don't match because of a minor difference such as using a nickname instead of a legal name, the beneficiary must re-sign the bond with his legal name. If there are large-scale discrepancies, the bank has discretion to refuse to cash the bond.
The bond may or may not list the beneficiary's current address and Social Security number. These do not affect whether or not the beneficiary can cash the bond. The beneficiary may write her Social Security number on the back of the bond if it is not printed on the front. Similarly, if the bond does not list the correct address for the beneficiary, the beneficiary may write it on the back of the bond.
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