How to Transfer Stocks After a Death in California

You must have a death certificate to transfer a decedent's stock in California.

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The process of transferring stock after a death in California depends on your relationship to the deceased and the location of the shares. Because California is a community property state, the surviving spouse inherits any remaining stock or other assets, even if the deceased did not have a will. Other family members only can request a transfer if they are listed as the executor of the will or designated as estate administrator by a probate court.

Step 1

Locate the brokerage account that holds the decedent's stock. If the decedent owned his shares as individual stock certificates and did not use a broker, you will have to open a new account in the name of the estate before you can execute a transfer. If you are not the surviving spouse, you must show proof that you are the executor of the decedent's will when opening this account.

Step 2

Complete the necessary forms to notify the broker of the account holder's death. You might be required to attach a copy of the death certificate. The broker might also require that you obtain a signature guarantee from a bank or have the forms notarized.

Step 3

Instruct the broker to transfer the decedent's stock into the account of your choice. If you opened a new account for the estate, you may transfer the stock to anyone you choose, unless a will or trust is involved. If the decedent had an existing brokerage account, you may only transfer stock to one of the beneficiaries previously listed on the account.