What To Do If You Inherit A Windfall Of Shares

Financial PlanningTax Planning


Thousands of over 50s inherit shares but four out of 10 don’t know what to do with them.

Around 250,000 over 50s have stocks and shares inheritances they did not know about worth an average £3,500.

Most of the share papers and certificates are discovered when families are going through the homes of deceased friends or relatives

Research by financial firm Saga Share Dealing revealed nearly half of over 50s had no idea the share certificates were valuable and did not know what to do with them.

Around 15% would keep the investments and 1% would give them away.

Paper certificates

The research also found twice as many women are likely to inherit shares than men, probably due to the fact women often live longer than men.

Where someone lives also impacts on whether they inherit stocks and shares.

Living in London, the South East, South West and Scotland gives a better chance of an inheritance, while those living in the North West are least likely to have a windfall.

 “Lots of people own shares and many have old paper certificates stashed away that they have forgotten about,” said Joanna Fowler, head of share dealing, Saga Personal Finance.

“People find them in the strangest places, like the loft or garage.”

Tracking down and selling shares

Fowler has some tips about what to do if you come across share certificates:

  • Companies do not have list of shareholders – they outsource the administration to a registrar.

The three main UK registrars are Capita, Equiniti and Computershare

Call them to find out if the certificates are still valid

  • If the company has merged with another company or you cannot find the details, check the details out on the Companies House web site for fee
  • Check out the costs of selling before you dispose of shares – the charges can vary between stockbrokers, banks and other services, so shop around for a quote. You may also pay capital gains tax if you dispose of shares you have owned for a while, so check the tax status before selling as well
  • If you want to keep the shares, you could consider holding them in a SiPP pension.

By bed and breakfasting, you sell one day and the pension buys them the next – but gives tax relief on value of the investment.

For example, a basic rate taxpayer putting shares worth £800 into a pension gains £200 in tax relief. Taxpayers at a higher rate gain more.


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