What should you do if you find or inherit share certificates?

22 February 2016

Have you found share certificates when sorting through a relative or friend's house? Tips on what to do if you find or inherit share certificates.

Almost a quarter of a million over-50s have found share certificates when sorting through a relative or friend's house after they passed away, according to research by Saga Share Dealing.

A poll of more than 9,000 over-50s suggests that not everyone would know what to do if they found share certificates. 

While 48% of people would sell them and 14% would keep them, 37% say they don’t know what they would do with them.

Could you be sitting on a fortune?

Inheriting share certificates

Saga estimates that 1.6 million over-50s have inherited shares and around one in three of these people have been left certificates. 

While the majority of people were gifted share certificates in a loved one’s will (74%), one in eight say their friend or relative gave them the paper certificates before they passed away.

Analysis of Saga Share Dealing data shows that the average value of paper share certificates is around £3,500.

Read our guide to inheriting shares.

What should you do?

Joanna Fowler, head of share dealing, Saga Personal Finance, commented: “Finding share certificates after a loved one has passed away is not as uncommon as you might think.  We’ve heard stories of people finding certificates in lofts, kitchen cupboards and even garden sheds and garages. And a lot of the time they didn’t even know their relative had shares stashed away.”

Saga is offering the following tips on what to do you find or inherit shares certificates: 

  • If you want to check if the certificates have not been replaced before you try to cash them in, call the registrar and not the company whose shares you hold. This basic check should be free of charge.

  • If you inherit shares and want to keep them, you will need to transfer them into your name. You will need a copy of probate to be able to do this.

  • The name of registrar can usually be found at the top of the share certificate. If the company name has changed or no longer exists, then you can call Companies House on 0303 123 4500 who will help you track down the new company name.

  • If you want to sell your paper certificates, beware of the charges. The fees some high street banks charge can wipe out a large chunk of your sale proceeds. It is worth shopping around for the best deals. Saga offers some of the best rates in the market as it only charges between £25 and £100 (depending on the trade value).

  • If you are looking for the cheapest way to sell your shares, then try to transfer them to an online nominee service as they may be easier to sell. Look for providers that will not charge you to transfer them. Remember this process may take a few weeks to complete and you will be charged nominee rates when selling. Saga’s frequent trader nominee rate is £9.75 per trade.

For more tips and useful information, browse our money articles.

If you have any share certificates that you have considered selling, Saga Share Direct’s Certificated Dealing Service, provided by Equiniti Financial Service limited, is a simple way to sell share certificates at a low cost. Aged 50 or over and would like more information? Click here or call 0800 015 9278. Lines open 8am to 6pm weekdays (excluding Bank Holidays).

Shares are high-risk investments. Share prices and the income from them can fall as well as rise and you may not get back the full amount invested. Past performance should not be taken as indication of future returns. This service is not suitable for everyone. If you have any doubt whether it is suitable for you, you should obtain advice from a financial adviser. Saga Share Direct is an execution-only service, which means we do not offer advice.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.