Paper versions of stock certificates date back to the time before electronic brokering was available. In some case, the company may not exist any more or may have been purchased by another company. If you have an old stock certificate, the company may have turned it over to the state as unclaimed property. Generally, property such as stocks are considered unclaimed if the company cannot find you and nothing has been done with the stock for five years. The exact time frame varies from state to state. Since the certificate belongs to you, you have a right to the cash value of it, even if the company no longer exists.
1. Call the office of unclaimed funds in your state. The office may be connected to the Department of Commerce or the Treasury, depending on where you live. You may also be able to look up unclaimed property online at your state's website. Every state has its own unclaimed property office or program. The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) is a non-profit organization that lets you look up unclaimed property by state at its website, unclaimed.org. For example, if you purchased the stock while living in Pennsylvania, look for unclaimed property in that state.
2. Give your current address and full name to the office of unclaimed property. If you married and changed your name since the stocks were purchased, you will have to provide your maiden name too. You should also be prepared to provide any previous addresses in the state. If the certificate belonged to a person who you have power of attorney over or who left it to you after passing away, you need to provide documentation for that as well.
3. Complete the claim form as required by your state. You may need to print and mail the form. Some states allow for online submissions of forms. Your social security number will help the state process your claim more efficiently, but the number may not be required on the forms.
- You should never pay a fee to look for or cash in your unclaimed stocks. Be aware of scams or fraudulent companies who ask for payment or demand personal information. Only work with your state's government or NAUPA to claim what is rightfully yours.
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