How do I add paper stock certificates to my portfolio?August 15, 2012: 6:30 AM ET
My grandmother bought me three shares of RJR Nabisco Holdings Corp. in 1991, and I have the paper certificates of those shares in a safe deposit box. I have various stocks, bonds, mutual funds and a 401(k) with large financial organizations (for example, Charles Schwab and Vanguard). How can I take these paper shares and integrate them into my portfolio? Also, would these shares now be considered Philip Morris shares since Philip Morris bought Nabisco Holdings in 2000? — Stacey S., Houston, Tex.
This may require some sleuthing on your part. When Philip Morris bought Nabisco, owners of Nabisco stock received cash, not shares in Philip Morris. Since the buyout took place more than 10 years ago, the cash payout you were entitled to may have been deemed "abandoned property" by the state where you reside, according to Jeff Stein, senior marketing manager with Computershare, the third-party firm that Altria Group (formerly Philip Morris) employs to manage stock transactions with shareholders. Since you live in Texas, start by checking for unclaimed funds with the state comptroller's office, or search the state's unclaimed property website. The funds could still be there, and your paper shares would make for a strong claim.
If your paper shares hadn't been part of a more-than-a-decade-old buyout, you might have been able to exchange them at your brokerage. For instance, Vanguard will provisionally deposit certificates in your account, according to Linda Wolohan, a public relations manager with Vanguard. The company will work with the transfer agent to secure the cash value for the shares you hold. (The process takes between four to six weeks, however, and there's no guarantee that your shares will be able to be redeemed.) It's much the same process with Charles Schwab, although the firm has a policy not to accept shares that were part of a reorganization, such as a buyout, that is more than five years old.
— Marc Mewshaw
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