Some of my favorite questions from readers involve U.S. savings bonds.
I'm not really sure why. Maybe it's that savings bonds seem like simpler, easier-to-understand investments than IRAs or 401(k)s. They remind me of gifts from grandpa and grandma when I was a child and gifts from my parents to my children today.
But savings bonds can be serious investments, too, as I was reminded recently in an e-mail from a reader named Ken.
"When my wife and I were both employed, we had EE government savings bonds deducted from our paychecks for several years, and we just listed each other as the beneficiary," Ken wrote. "We are now both retired and past the age of 70 1/2, so are required to draw out our annuities, which we also purchased during those years."
Ken wrote that, due to tax considerations, they do not want to cash in their bonds until they have closed out their annuity accounts.
"However, our concern is that should we accidentally die at the same time, how could our two children cash the bonds? We have everything else in our estate covered legally through a trust, except the bonds. Because the amount of the bonds is quite large and they are years past maturity, we would hate to have them lose the money we have invested."
That would be unfortunate, Ken. For help with your question, I talked to Randy Holmgren, an estates and trusts attorney with the Salt Lake City law firm Jones Waldo Holbrook & McDonough.
Randy says he usually encourages clients in such situations to cash in their savings bonds, due to the "hassle factor" involved. But since Ken indicated that is not an option, we'll need a different solution.
In this case, Randy says, the best move Ken and his wife can make is to have their savings bonds reissued to their trust.
"Then it really doesn't matter when they die, if they die at the same time or not, because in their trust, they've probably named beneficiaries of who they want the assets to go to," Randy says.
However, he says, the disposition of the bonds would be more complicated the way things stand now.
"If they died at the same time (now), there's a high likelihood that the survivors ... would have to open up a probate case in order to get those bonds titled or re-titled out of the name of the deceased owners and into the names of (the survivors)," Randy says.
Getting the savings bonds reissued in the name of the trust is not too hard, but it does take some effort. Ken and his wife will have to get the proper form, fill it out and mail it and the bonds back to the federal government.
"They've got to have a little bit of faith to put those in the mail, because you worry about things getting lost," Randy says. "They probably want to have them insured and make photocopies before they mail (the savings bonds). But we've done that for clients and never had a problem with them being lost."
The form you need to have your bonds reissued in the name of a trust is Form PD F 1851, according to the government's TreasuryDirect Web site. For more information on reissuing savings bonds, and to request that form, go online to www.treasurydirect.gov/indiv/research/indepth/ebonds/res_e_bonds_eereplace.htm.
I hope this helps, Ken. Drop me a line to let me know how everything turns out.And for others who have financial questions, send them to email@example.com or to the Deseret News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, UT 84110.