I can’t find the majority of my late dad’s share certificates, can I still sell or transfer them?

I can’t find the majority of my late dad’s share certificates, can I still sell or transfer them?

My dad died a couple of years ago and I was his executor.  I sorted out all his bank accounts and other financial affairs but he had some direct shareholdings in companies, including Lloyds and BP, and I never sorted those.

I have some of the share certificates but I think the majority of them are missing. How do I sort this out? Do they have a register that shows him as owning those shares?

Can we sell them or transfer them without the certificates? Are we at risk of losing the money?

Missing share certificates make it more difficult to sell and transfer shares but there are ways round it

Angharad Carrick of This Is Money replies: First of all, I’m sorry to hear of your loss. Sorting out the possessions and estate of a loved one is often difficult – and no doubt missing share certificates is an unwelcome complication.

It is fairly common to overlook a deceased person’s shares, but the good news is that it is unlikely the money is lost as the shares still exist.

Presuming your dad did not hold his shares electronically he will have been issued a hard copy of the share certificate.

If these have been lost the shares cannot be accessed without requesting a replacement certificate, which can be a complex process. 

However, given you know two of the companies he invested in you can go to the registrars and ask for a copy.

There are three main UK share registrars, Equiniti, Link and Computershare which cover most of UK companies. 

Gavin Holt, head of probate for Co-op Legal Services said: ‘As your father’s executor, you will need to arrange for the shares to be sold, or, alternatively, transferred to the beneficiaries of his estate.

You will need to contact the registrars for the companies involved. For BP, the registrar is Link Asset Services and, for Lloyds Banking Group, it is Equiniti.

The registrars will confirm how many shares are held in your father’s estate and provide you with details of the process for selling or transferring them.

Technically, unless the shares are held electronically, you should have the original certificates in order to sell or transfer the shares.

However, the registrars recognise that certificates can be lost over time, especially in bereavement situations.

They should provide you with some standard forms in which you can declare that the certificates are lost and indemnify them against any losses they might incur as a result of reissuing certificates. There’s usually a small administrative fee.

It’s usually a straightforward process, but if the value of the shares is high, e.g. over £100,000, you may need to contact a specialist insurance company and ask them to countersign the forms.

If you obtained a grant of probate when you originally dealt with your father’s estate, you will need to send an official copy to the registrars. If you didn’t, you may have to obtain a grant of probate now. This too will depend on the value of the shares.

If the value is low, e.g. under £20,000, you may be able to arrange the sale or transfer without a grant of probate by using the registrars’ small estates procedures. The requirements vary from registrar to registrar and they will be able to guide you. 

Angharad Carrick, This Is Money said: If you suspect your father may have owned more shares but you’re not sure what they are, it is worth looking through his paperwork again. 

Even if you can’t find the share certificates, there may be old dividend vouchers or annual statements that can give you details on his other investments. 

These documents will most likely have information on the registrars but even if it doesn’t you will quite easily find information on the Internet.    

Holt adds: ‘If you can’t find any paperwork at all, but still suspect that there are shares out there, then you could ask a firm of probate specialists to assist you, as they will have access to professional missing asset searches, which often aren’t available to the public directly.’ 

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