How to Sell Stocks of Deceased Relatives

Suppose you have inherited stocks from a deceased relative. You’ll probably want to sell the shares sooner or later. You cannot do that until ownership of the stock is legally transferred to you. The method used to transfer ownership depends on how your relative held the stocks. Once the stocks are transferred to your name, selling them is a straightforward matter.

Contact the deceased relative’s broker if the shares are held in an account and you are listed as either co-owner or beneficiary. In either case, ownership of the shares automatically transfers to you with no need for review by a probate court. If you are the account beneficiary, the broker will ask you to furnish proof of the death, such as a copy of the death certificate. Once that is done, the brokerage firm will transfer the stock to you. You may then move the stocks to another account or place an order to sell the shares.

Contact the executor of your deceased relative’s estate. If you are entitled to receive stocks that are part of the probated estate, ask to be notified when ownership of the shares is transferred to you. The executor is the person, usually a relative, named in a will to handle distribution of the assets of an estate under the supervision of the probate court. In the event there is no will or a will does not name an executor, the probate court appoints an administrator to fill the executor’s role. The executor is the only person who can transfer ownership of estate assets. If you are named as executor or administrator, follow steps 3 to 5. Otherwise, skip to Step 5.

Call or write the transfer agent that handles stock transactions for the company that originally issued the shares once the probate court authorizes you, as executor, to distribute stocks to the heirs. This will be necessary for stocks that are held as paper stock certificate or in an account with the transfer agent with no named beneficiary. You can find contact information for the transfer agent on the company's investor relations website. Ask the transfer agent to send you a transfer of ownership form. On occasion, shares will be held in a brokerage account with no named beneficiary. Follow the same procedure, except contact the brokerage firm instead of the transfer agent.

Fill out the transfer of ownership form and the form on the backs of each paper stock certificate, if there are any. Make photocopies of the will, death certificate and the statement from the probate court authorizing you to transfer ownership of the shares. Take everything to a financial institution that can issue a Gold Medallion Signature Guarantee. Most banks, credit unions and brokerage firms can issue a Medallion Signature Guarantee. Sing the transfer of ownership form in the presence of an authorized official. Do not go to a notary public. Transfer agents will not accept a notarized signature unless the transfer is for just a few shares of stock.

Mail the transfer of ownership form and accompanying documents to the transfer agent or brokerage firm where the shares are held. Once the transfer of ownership is processed, inform the heirs and provide them with the name of the transfer agent or broker along with contact information. The heirs may then place an order to sell the shares.