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Lost Stock Certificate? Inherited Stock? This Can Help.

April 21st, 2010
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sample stock certifiate of The Walt Disney Company

sample stock certificate of The Walt Disney Company

Lost Stock Certificate? Inherited Stock? This Can Help.

What to do with lost or inherited stock certificates.

Investor Education Series written by Net Advisor

Eventually people will inherit stock from a family member, often who came from a generation who wanted physical shares. This is really not the best way to hold stock because it can get lost, and replacing it and registering it can be time consuming and have unnecessary expenses. Other people may have taken physical shares of stock and lost the certificate.

Here is what to do:

1. Start by doing a free search HERE: American Stock Transfer & Trust Company, now owed by LINK Group; or use their alternative search HERE.

The American Stock Transfer & Trust Company is one of the largest record keepers of stocks in the USA.

2. If that does not work, call AST Shareholder Services: Toll Free USA: 1-(800) 937-5449
Website contact link: HERE

3. You can also try calling shareholder relations of the company named on the certificate.
You may try doing a web search for the company name and contact number.

4. Once you get the stock symbol, check here to see if the company has any value.
example: KO
type in symbol or company name HERE.

5. If the value is in pennies, and you have less than 4,500 shares it will probably not be worth it unless you have a real company. AST will change at least $45 to do a transfer, and possibly a cost per certificate.

6. You can also deposit these in a brokerage account and they will do all the work for you. Depending on who you go to, you may be changed a fee per certificate which could be around +/-$50.00 This will be common among all the low commission discount brokers.

A full service broker might not have these fees if you get someone who is willing to work with you and if the certificates appear to have value AND you intend to deposit them and eventually sell them through that broker.

7. If you ever send certificates by mail.

  • A. Get a Medallion Signature Guarantee (REQUIRED for any transfer) on each certificate. This can be done at most banks and all brokerage firms. If you have a qualifying account with the bank they may do this for free. This is not optional. If you don’t get a Medallion Signature Guarantee, the transfer agent will not accept the stock certificates and thus you can never sell them or attempt to claim legal ownership to them. SEC advisement on Signature Guarantees: Preventing the Unauthorized Transfer of Securities
  • B. Send certificates via USPS REGISTERED MAIL, INSURED for at least Full Value. Sending them certified, or regular mail is a big risk. If they are lost or stolen, you may be out of luck. Certificates are likely money, just harder to cash. You can also use an overnight carrier and insure it for at least full value.

8. If you inherited the certificates or if they do not have your name on them. You have to show legal proof that they are yours and only yours. A death certificate from your local county or where the person is decisive will be needed. You may also be required to show proof of ownership such as legal court order, will, trust, something that says you are entities to own these securities.

9. If still unable to find the securities, the company may be no longer in business or have merged. You can try the Department of Corporations in your state, or the “Unclaimed Property” division in your state. Ignore the services that do this, they may or may not be legit. Go straight to the state government.

How Best To Hold Stock

In the future, it is best to own publicly traded stock through a broker and keep them on deposit with the brokerage firm. This is called, holding stocks in “street name.” You will get monthly or quarterly statements from the broker and can access the account on-line anytime. The brokerage firm is responsible for all stock splits, any dividends, sending you voting proxy, and other relevant information regarding your stock.

You can avoid all of the above additional costs, and problems by just holding the stock with the registered brokerage firm or broker. Check to see if your broker has an account fee. Some do, some do not.


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  1. Markus J.
    April 29th, 2013 at 10:26 | #1

    I happen to be checking out your numerous articles and i must say quite clever stuff. I’ll absolutely bookmark your site.

  2. isabel mara
    April 16th, 2013 at 08:28 | #2

    I am 29 yrs old and this was very interesting.

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