Occasionally we have clients come to us who hold stock directly with a company or their loved one passed away leaving behind paper stock certificates or transfer agent account statements. Cleaning up and liquidating the account can take time and research to make sure the process is followed to a T. The timing and decisions often affect the financials of our clients, and we go above and beyond when assisting our client in these tasks, coordinating with other professionals when needed.
One example of this “fun scavenger hunt”, as one client described it, is chasing down rogue stock certificate transfer agent accounts because an individual purchased stock shares directly from the company. You may think this is straightforward, “I purchased X stock in this year and all I need to do is sell it;” this is not always the case. The nuances come when there are stock splits, mergers, acquisitions, spinoffs, dividend reinvestments, etc. Depending on the stock and duration held, there could be a lot of activity that may surprise you. For example, that 100 shares of Company X may have turned into 200 shares of company X and 50 shares of company A, B and C. If you are lucky, all the paper stock certificates have already transferred to electronic shares. Otherwise, this is another wrinkle that could further delay the process. Furthermore, stock activity after the account owner is deceased can create additional issues that might snowball into a nightmare for administering the estate.
As part of the process – depending on the complexity – I often create detailed spreadsheets that map out the stock history. Putting together these spreadsheets usually requires researching stock transactions and reviewing old statements in hopes to reconcile the timeline. This takes time, time our clients would rather spend doing something else. Once all the digital and paper shares are accounted for, I will generally assist with timing the change of account owner, selling the shares, and closing the account. Timing is key to avoid dividend payments being deposited after the attempt to liquidate the account. If this happens, you may need to redo work you already completed. This is just one example of how we go above and beyond for our clients.