August 2005

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Looking back through recent newsletters, I find it’s time for one of the lectures! There’s quite a stock of them, as regular readers know. And you are all regular readers, are you not? Please, I wouldn’t want to know that you trash this thing without a glance. The rejection would be too much to bear.

This lecture is the standard pay-attention-to-your-stock-certificate rant. It’s fun because of the almost daily evidence that some of you don’t. (Pay attention, that is.) In attention can make a simple transfer of a water tap into a circus, requiring numerous telephone calls, letters, faxes, lawyers fees, curses and tears. All of which can be avoided by learning and remembering the answers to at least three questions:

1. Where is your stock certificate? If it is not in your safe, file drawer, tin box, mattress, or wherever you stash important papers, then it might be in the hands of your mortgage holder. I wish I could have said “safely” in the hands of your mortgage holder, but that would not necessarily be true. If you think your bank has it, ask, and don’t accept the first denial. Be wary if your mortgage is routinely sold. Be especially wary if you know they own a paper shredder. When a mortgage is sold, the new owner of the loan may indulge in a little paperwork reduction. Likewise, when your mortgage is paid off, they should give the certificate to you, not the shredding department.

2. Whose name is on the certificate? If, romantically, you had the stock certificate made out to “Joe Blow and His Forever Sweetheart, Jane,” but Jane decided that forever was up and hit the road, and you said fine, and you don’t know or care where Jane boogied to, and now you would like to move on yourself, there may be a problem. The stock certificate is “encumbered” by Jane’s name, even though you consider yourself unencumbered. You must now find Jane and get her to join you in assigning the stock certificate. If she says no, then a judge may be required to take apart what you put together. You say you have Jane tattooed on your chest? Tsk.

3. If you die tomorrow, what becomes of the stock? The bumper sticker says, “revenge is living long enough to be a problem for your kids.” I think this is a perfectly sound philosophy, and can be improved upon by departing “intestate” - without a will. In that case, the survivors will probably need to undergo a probate procedure (fights, tears, lawyers’ fees) to determine who has the authority to dispose of your property, including your water tap. It’s kinder to make a will and assign an executor of your estate before moving onward and upward. You will still have the pleasure of laughing from your cloud at the kids’ other follies - unless you are too busy hopping over hot coals.

Our files are filled with tap transfers that took months and a lot of money to complete. Happily, our files are also filled with tap transfers that took five minutes and $30 to complete. You have most of the control over the situation. About all we can do here is lecture.
Speaking of which, you should be safe from harangues like this one for another few months. Then I’ll pick a favorite topic out of the hat and let you have it again. Happy trails.


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