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Savings bond finders not keepers

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Dear Dr. Don,
I acquired some Series EE savings bonds when I purchased the contents of a storage unit from a storage company after the renter defaulted on the rent. I have all the paperwork for the purchase and proof that I purchased the contents of the unit. How do I go about cashing in these savings bonds? Any information you may give me would be of great help.
— Judith Junkpile

Dear Judith,
Possession may be nine-tenths of the law, but not when it comes to savings bonds. Your receipt showing you bought the contents of the storage unit doesn’t mean you now own the savings bonds.

U.S. savings bonds are nonmarketable securities. A savings bond has a registered owner, and ownership is not transferable. The U.S. Treasury has a contractual relationship with the owner or co-owners named on the bond, not you. In certain circumstances, the bonds can be reissued and registered to another owner, but that typically requires the current registered owner to initiate that action.

The Treasury Department will replace lost, stolen or destroyed savings bonds and in fact, they may have already done so with these bonds, making the savings bonds in your possession the property of the U.S. Treasury. But you’d be doing the owner of the savings bonds a favor if you were able to return the bonds to him or her. Who knows, the owner might even give you a reward for your effort.

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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.