Cashing bond won’t keep it from estate

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Dear Dr. Don,
I have a $30,000 I Bond maturing in two days. Should I cash it out and put it into a certificate of deposit? I’m 73 and don’t want to have it invested in the I bond at death only to have it go into my estate.

Peggy Pecuniary

Dear Peggy,
I’m confused about what you own. I’m going to assume that it’s a Series I savings bond. The Treasury started issuing Series I savings bonds in 1998. Since these savings bonds have a 30-year maturity, a Series I savings bond isn’t going to mature in 2007.

The Treasury has issued Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities, or TIPS, since 1997, but the 10-year TIPS issued in 1997 would have matured in January 2007, not December 2007. The 1998 TIPS are maturing on Jan. 15, 2008. Since you wrote your message in December, this isn’t likely to be your issue either. These securities don’t reinvest into new maturities without some action on your part.

If you redeem Series I savings bonds within the first five years, you’ll forfeit the three most recent months’ interest; after five years, you won’t be penalized. So after five years, you can cash out and move the money without penalty, although you will owe taxes on the interest earnings.

If you own a Series I savings bond that won’t mature for another 20-plus years, you can reissue the bond to make it payable on death, or POD, to a beneficiary. That won’t keep it out of your estate, but it should keep it out of probate. In some cases, the reissuance creates a reportable event for federal income tax purposes. See ”
Series I Savings Bonds Tax Considerations” for more details. A CD can also be set up as a POD account.

Talk to your attorney or your tax professional about the bigger picture here. Moving from a Treasury security to a CD isn’t going to keep the money out of your estate. From an investment perspective, it may or may not make sense to cash in the bond, depending on when you bought your Series I savings bond and its current yield.

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