When someone dies, the stocks they owned become property of the estate unless they were placed in a trust. If an estate is opened, the executor, or appointed administrator, of the will must provide an accurate accounting of the date-of-death value for each stock to the court. Stocks placed in a trust must also be valued at the decedent’s date of death so the trustee can provide the beneficiaries with an accounting.
Go through the decedent’s documents and locate the name and phone number of the decedent's broker. Contact the broker, informing him of the decedent’s death, and request a list identifying what stocks the decedent owned, along with their individual date-of-death values. Most brokerage firms will need a copy of the death certificate and the Letters of Administration verifying that you are the estate’s executor before releasing the information. If the securities were held in a trust, you will need to send a copy of the trust document showing that you are the named trustee.Step 2
Look for any paper stock certificates the decedent might have kept at home. Review the decedent’s federal income tax return to see if company dividends were reported on Schedule B. Find out if the decedent had a safe deposit box and, if so, who else is authorized to open the box. If no one else is listed, you might need a court order granting permission to open the safe deposit box. A bank representative will remove the contents from the safe deposit box and prepare an inventory on the spot. Inform the broker of these newly-discovered stocks and request date-of-death values for them.Step 3
Create a master list identifying the name of each stock and its date-of-death value. If a security was illiquid or if the decedent owned fractional shares, you will have to find the date-of-death values. Go to an online financial data provider such as Yahoo Finance and use the historical price feature to find the date-of-death value. Alternatively, you can go to the company website and look up the stock’s historical price there. For valuation purposes, the last price the stock traded at during the regular trading session that day is the date-of death valuation.
- Nasdaq provides historical prices for stocks listed on its exchange.
- Keep all paper stock certificates in a safe place. You will have to mail them to the broker so the stocks can be electronically placed into the estate or trust brokerage account before they can be sold.
Based in St. Petersburg, Fla., Karen Rogers covers the financial markets for several online publications. She received a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of South Florida.