From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: My grandmother died in a senior living facility in Philadelphia. She died without any real assets except for a small bank account and some stock held just her name. Her will said the stock was supposed to be used to pay her last bills and then anything left over would be divided among the grandchildren. We’re confused as to how to sell the stock once we do the transfer paperwork. Do we have to sell it through Computershare or can we sell it through any brokerage?
During her lifetime, the stock and bank account could only be accessed or liquidated by your grandmother. Now that she is dead, the accounts will sit until an authorized person contacts the bank and brokerage. As your grandmother had a will, and she lived in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, that authorized person is the Executor under the will. The Executor needs to take the Will to the Philadelphia County Register of Wills along with the death certificate, your ID and a checkbook. The Register will then examine the will and verify it is authentic and properly signed. The Register will also verify the death certificate’s authenticity and that the person who is in the room is the same person named as the Executor in the will (hence the ID).
Once confirmed, and the fee is paid (the checkbook/credit card), the Register will take the will and exchange it for paperwork that authorizes the Executor to act for the Estate. That paperwork goes to the bank and the brokerage house. They, in turn, will now liquidate the stock if the Executor makes that request. There is a lot to being an Executor, including filing the Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax Return, paying creditors, etc. You would be well advised to retain an experienced Probate Attorney to help you. Remember, the Executor is personally responsible for money not applied correctly, so don’t pay any bills or distribute any assets until you understand all aspects of the estate.
If you have questions about Probate in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, feel free to contact our office for a free consultation.