Probate is a legal process designed to administer a decedent’s estate, settle any claims against the estate and distribute the property to the beneficiaries. If the assets include stocks, the court-assigned representative of the estate is responsible for initiating a transfer of the stocks to the new owners. The process is straightforward once the representative obtains the required documents.
1. Examine the stock certificates to ascertain the number of stocks the decedent owned. The number of stocks determines the documents required for the transfer. If the decedent owned 50 stocks or less, valued at less than $100,000, then it is only necessary to file the original stock certificates, a transfer of stock ownership form and an affidavit of domicile form. If the decedent owned 250 stocks or more valued at or in excess of $100,000, it is necessary to file additional forms.
2. Obtain copies of documents that attest to the probate status of the decedent's estate. These include an order for probate and certified copies of letters testamentary or letters of administration. The letters certify your court-ordered status as the official representative of the decedent’s estate. They must be certified within 60 days of submission to a transfer agent.
3. Sign a stock power form to authorize the transfer of stocks. You may find this form at the back of each stock certificate or obtain a separate form from a brokerage firm, bank or office supply store. You may also download this form from the website of a brokerage firm. One of the separate forms is called a stock or bond assignment separate from certificate. Another is called an irrevocable stock or bond power.
4. Prepare an affidavit of domicile to confirm the decedent’s place of residence before death. Sign this form in the presence of a notary public, who will notarize your signature.
5. Prepare a transmittal letter to request the transfer of stocks. Provide the names, Social Security numbers and addresses of the new owners.
6. Verify the name and address of the current transfer agent. The transfer agent is the financial institution that a brokerage firm assigns to maintain records of investors, their account balances and their transactions. Call or send a letter of inquiry to the transfer agent listed on the stock certificate.
7. Submit the documents to the transfer agent to initiate the transfer of the decedent’s stocks. The amount of time required to complete the process depends on the brokerage firm.
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