How to Transfer Stock Ownership

Philadelphia boasts the first U.S. stock exchange, founded in 1790.
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In his 1994 book, "Stocks for the Long Run," investment expert Jeremy Siegel demonstrated how long-term stock investment returns often outperform the returns for other investment options while putting investors at lower risk Given the advantages to owning stock over long periods, transferring stocks as gifts, inheritances and as part of estates is common. These shares may take the form of paper certificates, but you also can transfer electronic shares.

Stock Ownership Choices

The stock you hold can take three forms.Physical certificates are registered in your name with the stock issuer, and you receive a paper copy representing your ownership. The other two options use the book-entry form, which means the company doesn't issue any physical certificates. If you hold a stock through street name registration, stock is issued in the broker's name and held for you by the broker. With direct registration, your stock is registered with the issuer as a book entry. You may be able to transfer directly registered stocks through the Direct Registration System (DRS).

Basic Transfer of Stock Ownership

Transferring stocks requires the services of a transfer agent who acts for the stock issuer. The transfer agent monitors all aspects of stock ownership. Usually, transfer agents are banks or trust companies, but some companies keep services in-house. When you transfer stock, all of the details of the transaction are sent to the transfer agent. This information will include the transfer recipient's Social Security number and the number of shares being transferred. For paper certificates, the certificate itself must be signed by all the registered holders, certified by a bank that participates in a recognized Medallion Signature Guarantee Program, and returned to the transfer agent. The transfer agent may request additional supporting documents.

Types of Stock Registration

How a stock is registered may impact how it is transferred. Joint registration with rights of survivorship (WROS) transfers ownership to the surviving registered owners when one owner dies. With that type of registrations, a wife would assume full ownership of stock she jointly held with her husband upon the husband's death. If the couple held the stock as tenants in common registration, the husband's portion would pass to his estate for distribution under the terms of his will. Under custodial registration, one person acts on behalf of the stockholder, such as in the case of someone who is named to represent a stockholder who is a minor. In each case, someone must inform the transform agent of the changes.

Converting Certificates to Electronic Shares

In today's marketplace paper shares have some disadvantages. It can be more difficult to sell paper shares quickly, and owners must pay fees to replace lost certificates. Converting paper certificates to electronic shares is a simple process, and the transfer agent will help you with the conversion. You usually can choose between street name registration and direct registration, although not all companies participate in the DRS.