It is not uncommon for people to plan their estates in order to avoid probate using tactics such as joint ownership and beneficiary designations. However, it is common for people to forget to update old stock certificates for shares that were purchased long ago.

If a person dies and the only asset he owns in his own name is stock, it may be possible for the stock to be transferred without opening a probate estate. An heir can sign a sworn statement and the transfer agent for the stock can change the owner from the deceased person to the decedent's heir(s) if certain conditions are met:

The sworn statement must be made under oath and under the penalty of perjury, and must state the following:

  • The entire estate is not worth more than $20,000 (in 2009)
  • 28 days have passed since decedent’s death
  • No probate estate is being opened

The statement must also list the name of each individual entitled to the stock and the portion to which each person is entitled.

The benefit of making a sworn statement is that it is handled privately and is never filed with the probate court. Additionally, a sworn statement helps the family avoid any expenses of probate.

Contact us for more information on this and other estate planning matters.