Bell Atlantic merged with GTE back in 2000 to form Verizon, but if you still have stock certificates from Bell Atlantic, don't worry. They're still valid, and you can even have them deposited in an account so you won't have to keep track of the paper certificates anymore. Once you do that, you're free to sell the stock or move it to a broker of your choice.
Sending In Your Certificates
If you own Bell Atlantic stock certificates, you can send them to Computershare, which manages accounts for people who own stock in Verizon outside of a broker through what's called book-entry ownership. Verizon recommends that you send the certificates by registered mail and insure them for 3 percent of their value. This will save you the trouble of dealing with certificates in the future.
If you happen to own stock certificates from NYNEX, which merged into Bell Atlantic in the 1990s, or if you own stock certificates from GTE, which merged with Bell Atlantic to form Verizon, you can exchange them to receive the financial benefits of the mergers and collect subsequent dividends. Contact Computershare for help with this.
If you know you did have stock certificates in any of the companies, but you can't locate them, you can also contact Computershare for help. There may be a fee to replace them.
Selling Your Stock
If you want to sell your stock, once you've sent it to Computershare you can either sell it through your account there or transfer it to a standard brokerage account. Either Computershare or your usual broker can help you make that transfer. Talk to both companies about any fees that may accrue.
You can still collect Verizon dividends if your stock is held through Computershare and even purchase more stock through the company, but it may be easier to move your stock to a traditional broker if you already manage other assets there.
Other Stock Certificates
If you have stock from other companies in certificate form as well, you can go through the same process of contacting the company that issued it, seeing if it is still valuable and finding out how to trade it in.
If the company no longer exists, you can look online to see if it may have merged with another company and contact that company for assistance. If you're having trouble finding today's successor company, you can work with a broker or a specialized firm that helps resolve those types of questions.
In the worst case, the certificates may not have much or any value as stock, though some old stock certificates can be worth something to collectors as antiques.
Steven Melendez is an independent journalist with a background in technology and business. He has written for a variety of business publications including Fast Company, the Wall Street Journal, Innovation Leader and Ad Age. He was awarded the Knight Foundation scholarship to Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.