Parents can cash bonds in kids' names

Don Taylorq_v2.gifDear Dr. Don,
My grandmother gave my brother and me three U.S. savings bonds each year until I was 10 years old. I am now 25 years old. I asked my grandmother before she died last year what happened to our savings bonds. She told us that our parents kept them. My parents claim that my grandma kept them.

My brother and I believe they were cashed in by my parents and were wondering if there is any way to track this. I've been to a few different Web sites and they all want money just to apply. I'm not sure what to do. Your input would be greatly appreciated.
-- Chelsea Conflict

a_v2.gifDear Chelsea,
I get letters like yours more frequently than I'd expect. Usually, they involve divorced couples, with each ex-spouse saying the other parent has the savings bonds. The dilemma is that a savings bond registered in the minor child's name, or jointly registered in the child's name and the parent's name, can be cashed in by the parent without the minor child's permission.

Let's hope that's not the case in your situation and that the bonds were just misplaced. If the bonds were misplaced and not redeemed, the bonds can be replaced if they can be identified. Here's what the TreasuryDirect Web site has to say on the matter:

What should I do if my paper savings bond has been lost, stolen or destroyed?
Simply fill out the form for Lost, Stolen, or Destroyed U.S. Savings Bonds (Form PD F 1048) and mail it to the address provided on the form.

If you don't have a listing of your savings bonds' issue dates and serial numbers, write to Savings Bonds, Parkersburg, WV 26106-7012. Provide as much information on the bond as possible and request a search of our records. We will replace your savings bonds if we can establish that a person entitled to cash the bonds hasn't done so.

If it turns out that the bonds were redeemed by your parents, my advice is to forgive and forget. You don't know what financial pressures brought them to the decision to redeem the bonds. Holding it against them isn't going to bring the money back.

To ask a question of Dr. Don, go to the "Ask the Experts" page, and select one of these topics: "Financing a home," "Saving & Investing" or "Money." Read more Dr. Don columns for additional personal finance advice.

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