investing

Lost stock shares should be easy to find

Don TaylorDear Dr. Don,
I have an old dividend statement linked to shares of a company that were purchased for me around the time of my birth. My father is listed as the custodian, but my Social Security number is the taxpayer ID. The company tells me the shares were transferred to a brokerage account in October 1995. Is there any way to trace this transfer and find out what happened to the shares? They are worth $50,000 today. My father and grandfather have died, and this is all the information I have about the stock.

Thank you,
-- Spencer Shareholder

Dear Spencer,
Because the shares were purchased for you when you were a minor, your father was named custodian under either the Uniform Gifts to Minors Act or the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act. That means that your dad controlled the shares while you were young, but they came under your control when you reached legal adulthood, or the age of majority, in your state. This varies by state, but typically is when a child reaches either age 18 or 21.

You should be able to find the shares quite easily using the unclaimed property site known as MissingMoney.com. If your state doesn't participate on the site, you can usually check on your home state's office of unclaimed funds website.

The brokerage firm would have an obligation to turn the shares held in the account over to the state after a period of inactivity in the account. If you had reached adulthood in 1995, the shares should be registered in your name. If not, you can search using your father's name.

Happy hunting! It sounds like this could be a financial home run for you. By the way, this really should be a do-it-yourself project. You shouldn't have to hire someone to track down these shares for you.

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