What should I do with physical share certificates?
As a member of the Financial Planning Association of Canada (FPAC), our overarching goal is to professionalize financial services in Canada. One way in which we seek to get the word out about FPAC’s mission is by providing a regular column, Qualified Advice, for MoneySense, the now online-only personal finance magazine. I had the privilege of writing the column for October 2021, on the topic of what to do with physical share certificates.
Here is the question.
A MoneySense reader writes:
When my spouse was a kid, his dad gave him a few physical share certificates of BCE. But this was a long time ago, and he didn’t do anything with them. In fact, he didn’t even know where the actual certificates were.
Recently, he came across the actual share certificates. Now we’re wondering what he should (or can) do with them. He doesn’t have any interest in continuing to own the physical shares, but we have no idea how to convert them into cash or contribute them to a TFSA or RRSP. Can you help?
And here was my response:
Congratulations to you and your spouse! Discovering those BCE certificates must feel like quite a windfall.
BCE (formerly Bell Canada Enterprises) is a publicly traded Canadian holding company for Bell Canada and is one of Canada’s largest corporations.
Your spouse’s stock certificates are pieces of paper that physically represent his ownership shares in BCE. Most shares are issued in electronic form today but shares from 20 or 30 years ago might have been issued in paper or certificate form.
Coming across the certificates, after possibly many years, makes it clear that holding shares in certificate form is a potentially risky proposition. If certificates are lost, they can usually be recovered. However, depending on the terms of certain corporate actions, like a merger, for example, the shareowner may lose the right to exchange the old shares for the new shares resulting from the merger if action is not taken in a timely manner. I’m sure you would rather avoid that scenario, but this is unlikely with BCE.
Three ways to hold shares and stocks
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Disclaimer: This blog post is intended for general information and discussion purposes only. It should not be relied upon for investment, insurance, tax, or legal decisions.