Selling Shares of a Deceased Person

Selling UK Shares

If someone owned shares at the time that they died, then these will be included as part of their estate and they will need to be sold or transferred as part of the estate administration process.

Selling shares during the probate process in the UK can be a complex endeavour, as it involves navigating various legal and financial intricacies. Probate is the legal process of administering a deceased person’s estate, which includes distributing assets like shares in companies. The complexities arise from the need to comply with legal requirements, address potential tax implications, and ensure a fair and transparent distribution of all of the deceased’s assets to the right beneficiaries.

One of the initial challenges is determining the value of the shares held by the deceased. Accurate valuation is crucial for establishing the estate’s overall worth and calculating any inheritance tax liabilities. This process may involve obtaining professional valuations or consulting financial experts to assess the fair market value of the shares, considering factors like market conditions, company performance, and industry trends.

Once the valuation is established, the executor or administrator of the estate must demonstrate the necessary legal authority to sell the shares. This may require obtaining a Grant of Probate, a legal document that confirms the executor’s authority to administer the deceased’s estate. Without this Grant, the sale of shares may encounter legal obstacles.

The method of selling shares can also present complexities. If the deceased owned shares in a publicly traded company, selling them on the stock market is a straightforward option. However, private company shares may involve more intricate processes, such as finding a willing buyer or obtaining shareholder approval for the sale. In some cases, pre-existing agreements, like shareholders’ agreements or restrictions on share transfers, can add further layers of complexity.

Tax considerations are paramount when selling shares during probate. Capital gains tax implications, especially for appreciated assets, need careful evaluation. Additionally, any income generated from the shares during the probate period may be subject to income tax. Executors must navigate these tax complexities to minimise the financial impact on the estate and its beneficiaries.

On the death of the shareholder, it can become apparent that the portfolio of shares has not been actively managed for some years. All kinds of corporate action, from listings and de-listings to acquisition, mergers, stock splits, reverse stock splits, and takeovers might change the nature of the stock owned.

The involvement of multiple stakeholders, including beneficiaries and co-owners of shares, can also complicate the decision-making process. Engaging a professional company like Finders International can offer invaluable assistance. We have a dedicated team that specialises in selling UK and International Shares.

Louise Levene

Louise Levene
International Assets Manager

“Nowadays, estates in the United Kingdom are likely to contain at least one overseas asset – and possibly more. This happens for various reasons – a bank account opened abroad while someone was working in that country, a holiday home purchased in Spain or investment accounts set up in the US or offshore for tax planning purposes.

To get a bespoke quote tailored to your requirements, please contact us using the form below.

The legal and bureaucratic obstacles they cause can be a real headache for estate administrators, which is where we come in. Our international asset service deals with foreign assets, helping to sell, transfer or recover shares, bank accounts, investment portfolios and more.”


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To get a bespoke quote tailored to your requirements, please contact us using the form below.

Selling US and International Shares

Meanwhile, many foreign share registrars or transfer agents may continue to send information about the shareholding to an address they have on file, which could be years out of date. We know it’s not uncommon for an elderly shareholder with failing health to go through multiple changes of address in the closing years of their life, so that by the time the estate representatives are involved, critical information about shares is being sent to a property that was sold years ago.

There may also be old paper share certificates, which may not show the correct, current position.

This can lead to uncertainty, when a shareholder dies, about what exactly they did own.

Everything about dealing with foreign share registrars and transfer agents can be alien and frustrating. Starting from the language used (such as ‘decedent’ for the Deceased in the USA, and references to procedures largely unknown to Executors based in the UK, such as the Medallion Guarantee stamp and escheatment of assets), to the variable quantity and quality of information made available to “third parties”, due to the strict personal security and privacy restrictions to which registrars or agents are subject in their country of operation: the process can be draining to Executors unused to such involved processes. They may find it hard to understand why they have been denied meaningful information about the nature of the assets, and what to do about them.

Finders International can help. To get a bespoke quote tailored to your requirements, please contact us using the form at the bottom of this page.

Many shareholdings that were once listed on the London Stock Exchange are now listed in the USA, or merged with, or were acquired by, US Corporations, e.g. Keurig Dr Pepper, Inc, Kraft Heinz Company, Mondelez International and CRH plc, to name just a few.

Selling US Shares, whether during probate or in other circumstances, can involve various complexities. Understanding and navigating these complexities is crucial to ensure a smooth and legally compliant process.

The probate process can vary significantly from state to state in the US. Each state has its own probate laws, procedures, and timelines.

Determining the fair market value of US Shares at the time of the owner’s death can also be challenging. Market fluctuations, the type of shares, and the availability of historical pricing information all contribute to the complexity of valuation.

Capital gains tax may apply to the sale of US Shares. Professional advice is often necessary to navigate the complex tax landscape. Depending on the value of the estate, federal and state estate taxes may also apply. The sale of significant assets, such as valuable shares, can impact the estate tax liability. Estate tax laws are subject to change, and staying informed is crucial.

What We Do

We can liaise with the transfer agent to sell or transfer listed shares in an estate for you, including obtaining Medallion Signature Guarantee stamps in the USA and Canada – a securities anti-fraud compliance measure that affects millions of UK-resident shareholders, and their estate representatives.

We can obtain IRS tax clearance (a Federal Transfer Certificate) for the estate, where the US assets exceed the $60,000 USD tax exemption threshold at the date of death. We can dispose of shares in other countries, including Australia, Hong Kong and beyond, resealing Grants in Commonwealth countries and obtaining Grants in offshore jurisdictions like Jersey and the Isle of Man, preparatory to disposing of the shares.

It’s important to note that the probate process and regulations may vary by state, and legal advice may be necessary to navigate specific requirements. Executors are encouraged to seek professional.

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