Splitting Savings Bonds after a divorce

Monday, January 30th, 2006
Categorized as: Savings Bond registration changes

I am recently divorced and we agreed to divide our EE bonds equally. This is included in the divorce decree also. My name and SSN are on the bonds and my ex-wife is listed as co-owner. How do we divide the bonds to ensure that the person cashing the bonds is responsible for the tax liability since my SSN is on all the bonds? And should I have my half reissued to remove my ex-wife’s name?

Tom’s response

You didn’t ask, but I’m curious how you will divide them since they all are worth different amounts of money and could be paying different rates.

One possibility is to send them in and ask to have them all split into smaller denominations, with each of you getting reissued bonds with your own names on them. For this to work they have to be big enough to split, obviously. The smallest EE bond has a $50 face value.

The SSN on the bond isn’t used for anything unless the bonds are lost. When a person cashes a Savings Bond, the 1099-INT tax form reporting the interest to the IRS has the SSN of the person who cashed the bond.

However, if you die and your ex-wife is listed as the co-owner of your bonds, she will inherit them from you and vice-versa. I’d recommend sending them in and asking to have them split, making each of you sole owners of your own half.

Use Public Debt Form 4000 to make the request.

It’s important that you include a copy of your court order and a letter with the form that explains that you want to split each bond in half. Give the names, addresses, and SSNs for the new registrations.

Also say in your letter that you understand this will not create a taxable event for either of you, but if it will, not to proceed. This will make sure the bonds are processed correctly.

It sounds like you’d benefit from a weekend reading my book.

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12 Comments

On June 29th, 2008 Ralph & Janet Brescia said:

Hi there…These questions are relative to form PD F 4000 E. My wife and I are owner/co-owner on all our EE bonds, we simply want to remove the “co- owner” status on each bond and replace it with a “beneficiary” status for each of our 2 grown children (seperate bonds for each of course). The “owner” on all bonds will remain the same. We are not sure what signatures are required . Also is certification by ANY Notary Public sufficient? The form indicates “financial institution”. What financial institution is the form referring to? The number of bonds we are considering for these changes will exceed the spaces provided on pages 1 & 4, can we simply copy and include another page 4? To make life easier, can your office provide us with a sample for our situation? Are we correct in assuming that this is NOT a taxable event? We just want to make it easier for our kids to inherit without probate or controversy at the appropriate time …….Thank you very much.

On June 30th, 2008 Tom Adams said:

Ralph – This transaction will require the signatures of both you and your wife (the owner and co-owner of the bonds). A Notary Public is NOT sufficient, you need a “financial institution” – a bank, savings and loan, or credit union – to certify your signatures on the form. You can attach a list of the bonds to the form rather than listing them on the form; just write “see attached list” on the form. As long as you don’t change the owner, this isn’t a taxable event.

Tom Adams

On August 22nd, 2008 Linda said:

I too have a divorce situation, but it’s not quite so friendly. The bonds are in my ex-husband’s name with me as POD beneficiary. My ex, according to the court, owes me a large settlement so I am going to ask the court to order that I have permission to cash the bonds. My ex is not amenable to this idea. The form 4000 instructions state that the owner or his representative must sign. What if he refuses? Is the court order sufficient?
Thanks,
Linda

On August 25th, 2008 Tom Adams said:

Hi Linda – I suggest you scroll up and use the Ask the Treasury link on the right to get the latest information from the Treasury on how they might handle this. Meanwhile, there’s more information in my post, Civil suits and Savings Bonds.

Tom Adams

On October 13th, 2008 Joe said:

Several years ago, my sister purchased savings bonds for my two younger children who are still minors. When my ex-wife and I divorced two years ago, I left the savings bonds with a friend of hers to give them to the children. She and the children now claim that they never received the bonds. How can I tell if they were cashed in by her “friend,” or just never given to the children?

On October 14th, 2008 Tom Adams said:

Joe – it’s very unlikely they were cashed, but you can ask to have them replaced (info here) and during that process you’ll find out if they’ve been cashed.

Tom Adams

On February 6th, 2009 Bonnie Morrow said:

My husband and I got married last Oct. He had been divorced for 8 yrs and didn’t change the name on a savings bond and his ex’s name is on it; he wants to get hers off and his on. how does he do this?

On February 9th, 2009 Tom Adams said:

Bonnie – if only the ex’s name is on the bond, the bond legally belongs to her and your husband can’t cash the bond or change the registration. Keeping the bond rather than giving it to her is the equivalent of giving the money to the US Treasury rather than giving it to her.

On the other hand, if your husband is named on the bond as the owner or co-owner, the best thing to do is cash this bond and buy a new one with the registration you want now.

Trying to change the name on the bond may require the ex’s signature and may create tax complexities. He can avoid all this by just cashing the bond.

Tom Adams

On September 29th, 2009 Sarah said:

After my uncle divorced his first wife, he had my name listed on his I bonds for POD. He got remarried and he never told us if this was changed and I never asked. He has since died and we are not on good terms with his last wife. Is there a way to find out if those I bonds are still out there with my name as POD?

On September 30th, 2009 Tom Adams said:

Sarah – the process would be to ask for a list of Savings Bonds using the procedure outlined here, but include a copy of your uncle’s death certificate and Social Security Number in your request, along with what you’ve just explained here.

Tom Adams

On November 28th, 2009 Peter said:

I have Series EE bonds with my ex-wife as co-owner. If I convert these at Treasury Direct, can I subsequently remove her name as co-owner? I was awarded these bonds in the divorce decree.

On November 30th, 2009 Tom Adams said:

Peter – It requires the same paperwork (see above) to remove your ex-wife’s name whether you convert the bonds or not.

Tom Adams

Comments Closed

June 1, 2010

After six years, over 400 posts, 3,680 real comments, and over 90,000 spam comments (thank you, Akismet, for making managing a blog with comments possible), I am closing public comments on Savings-Bond-Advisor.com. I will contine to update the main articles on this site, but not the comments.

Virtually every question about Savings Bonds has been asked and answered on this site multiple times. Use the search feature (see the box in the gray area near the top of this page) or the detailed menu on the lower part of the home page to find the information you're looking for. If you have a copy of Savings Bond Advisor, you can ask me a question here.

Tom Adams

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