How to Sell the Stock Certificates of Deceased Persons

Updated March 23, 2017

The assets of a deceased person will pass to the deceased person's heirs by either an estate planning instrument such as a will or by intestate succession, if the deceased has no estate planning tools. If you wish to sell the stock certificates of a person who has died, you must first inherit the stock certificates. Upon inheritance, you may then follow the necessary steps to sell the certificates.

Determine whether you have legally inherited the stock certificates. If the stock certificates were granted to you by will, you will have to wait for the probate court to process the will. The probate process may take several months to more than a year. If the stock certificates were granted via a trust, the trustee of the trust will send the certificates to you, usually fairly soon after the death. Just as with probate, if the certificates pass to you by intestate succession, it will take many months or years to receive the certificates.

Review the stock certificates to determine if they need to be retitled in your name. If the certificates contain language requiring retitling, follow the instructions on the certificate. This often involves sending the certificate to the company with a copy of the estate document transferring the stock.

Contact a stockbroker or brokerage company to sell the stock. Make sure the certificates can be sold and that there is a market for the stock. Stock certificates in the electronic age are uncommon, and certificates are often only used for private and small companies. This sort of stock is often difficult to sell. Send the stock certificates to the stockbroker or company. If the certificates were not retitled in your name, also transmit the estate document that transferred the stock to you.

Instruct the broker to sell your stock. The stock will usually be converted to electronic shares and sold the next trading day on the stock market.


This article does not constitute legal advice. Consult an attorney for more information on this topic.

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About the Author

Andrew Mayfair has written professionally since 2009 when his article on patent law was published in the "Loyola of Los Angeles Entertainment Law Review." Mayfair earned his Bachelor of Science in biochemistry from the University of California, Davis and his Juris Doctor from the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law.