Deceased Estate Shares, Stocks, Fund Units & Securities

Just like real estate, shares can be held solely by an individual or jointly between two people. If shares are held jointly and one joint-owner dies, the surviving shareholder becomes legally entitled to the entire holding due to the “right of survivorship”. If the shares are held solely, Probate or Letters of Administration will be required in order to sell or transfer the shares.

Shares in public companies and unit funds (eg. traded on the ASX)

There are two main ways that public shares are registered (or “sponsored”) in Australia: Issuer Sponsored and CHESS Sponsored.

1. Issuer Sponsored Shares / Units

Issuer sponsored shares are shares where the share registration is maintained by the company that issued the shares, or their “share registry”. The shareholding will have a "SRN" (Securityholder Reference Number), which appears on dividend statements, and usually starts with the letter "I" followed by approximately 10 numeric digits.

Most publicly traded companies in Australia do not themselves maintain a record of shareholders, but instead outsource this task to one of a handful of major share registries. In order to acquire deceased estate shareholdings, it will be necessary for an executor or administrator (or their legal representative) to correspond with the share registry. The registries have individual processes and documentation which needs to be completed in order for the shares to be transferred or sold.

The physical address where the share registry maintains its register is, for Probate purposes, regarded as the “location” of the shares and, subject to the other assets forming the estate, may determine the jurisdiction where probate or letters of administration should be applied for.

The largest share registries in Australia are:
- Link Market Services (located in NSW)
- Computershare (located in VIC)

If you have a list of shareholdings, we can provide you with a free assessment of the portfolio, including which jurisdiction the shares are techinically located in, and what the important considerations are for applying for Probate.

2. CHESS Sponsored Shares / Units

This method of share registration relates to having a share broker, for example Commsec, maintain the record of the shareholding. If shares are CHESS sponsored they will have a "HIN" (Holder Identification Number) appearing on CHESS statements which should start with the letter "X" followed by approximately 10 numeric digits.

Similarly to issuer sponsored shares, it will be necessary for estate representatives to contact a share broker to determine the paperwork and process required to sell or transfer the estate shares.

If the shares are CHESS sponsored, the location of the CHESS sponsor will be regarded as the “location” of the shares for the purposes of Probate.

Are you unsure about the registration of the shares? We can provide you with a free initial assessment.

Shares in private companies

If shares are held privately, then the headquarters of the company will determine the “location” of the shares for the purposes of Probate. Valuing, selling or transferring such shares can be a complicated process, requiring the assistance of the company accountant.

Administration of estate shares

Once Probate is granted and a copy is provided to the relevant share registry or broker, shares can be either transferred to the nominated beneficiaries or sold on the open market to form the residue of an estate. To assist you in determining whether to sell or to transfer the shares, or what taxation obligations may be triggered, it is important to seek financial and accounting advice.

We regularly assist executors and administrators in Australia and overseas, to sell or transfer shares to beneficiaries. Contact us today and we can provide you with a combined-quote for obtaining a Grant of Probate, Administration, or Reseal, and to subsequently sell or transfer estate shares.

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