Finding old shares of gift stock
June 5, 2021 3:27 PM   Subscribe

I was given 2 shares of McDonalds stock in 1993 as a gift. I have a "certificate of ownership" but it's not a stock certificate. Can I ever claim this stock?

My grandfather gave me two shares of McDonalds in 1993, which I believe is 8 shares today based on the split history. However, all I have to document this is a "Certificate of Ownership" which does not look like a real stock certificate (it's just a piece of paper that came with the gift, with my name and the date printed on it).

My grandfather is dead so I can't find out from him. Is there any realistic path to locate or claim this stock, or should I give up instantly? It's actually sorta valuable!
posted by zvs to Work & Money (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Are there any unique numbers on the certificate? Does it look like something your grandfather could have made or had made for him?

It's possible he was basically assigning you 2 shares of stock he owned without actually giving it to you, and the stock he owned would've been dispersed according to his will -- not to say the stock was definitely sold, but it may have been transferred to other people, were free to sell it, buy more, etc.. Any idea who his heirs were who may still own the stock?
posted by Sunburnt at 3:30 PM on June 5

Wow, my grandmother gave me two shares of McDonald's stock in 1994! Maybe that was the thing for grandparents to do back then. For a while, I got little dividend checks in the mail, but they stopped at some point.

In 2012, I decided to track down what had happened to my shares. The answer was that in 1998, due to my failure to respond to some letter from McDonald's Corporation's transfer agent, the shares had escheated to the state in which I lived at the time. The state was still holding onto the proceeds as unclaimed property, which I was able to file a claim for, and eventually I did get the proceeds from the shares back from the state. (The shares had been sold in 1998, so they hadn't appreciated in value much. I just got a couple hundred bucks out of it, but it still felt like a win!)

So check your state's unclaimed property division—or any states you, or your grandfather, resided in at any point in the past. Search the states' unclaimed property database for your name, or your grandfather's name, or your parents' name. It worked for me!

If you track down the property and have any trouble with the claims process, let me know. I could go into a lot more detail on that part of the process.
posted by Syllepsis at 3:44 PM on June 5 [14 favorites]

Have you looked for your name on any sites that list unclaimed money or stocks? Here's some links. I found some stock belonging to a late parent that way.
posted by ShooBoo at 3:44 PM on June 5 [2 favorites]

I would start by contacting McDonalds Shareholder Relations. There are phone numbers listed on that web page, and also a link to Computershare, which handles shares that are not held by a brokerage firm. It is possible that by calling them and giving them your name and your grandfather's name they can track down your shares.

Related Story: in the 1990's I worked for Apple. My roommate wanted a share of stock, for hack value. He wanted the actual certificate to put on his wall. So I called my broker and had them send me a stock certificate for one share. I sold it to him for cash, at market value, which was about $25. To complete the sale, he was supposed to sign the back and mail it in to the transfer agent. He never did that, and the certificate got lost in mountains of paper that he accumulated over the years.

Fast forward to about 2015, and I got contacted by Computershare about this share of Apple stock, which had become 24 shares worth a couple of thousand dollars and was still in my name. I arranged to sell it, gave my friend the money (after withholding the capital gain I'd have to pay) and he took me out to dinner.

The moral is that someone -- quite possible Computershare -- could very well know about those two shares owned by you or your grandfather, even if you don't have any details about them.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 4:07 PM on June 5 [11 favorites]

You 100% can claim the stock if you ever owned it. Sounds like your grandfather bought it in "street name" and the broker gave him that document so he could show you.

I was given 1 share of Disney for my 13th birthday in the 70s. I tracked down the shares and the dividends only 5 years ago. Turned out bc Disney is headquartered in California, the CA AG office had it.

Try the advice above. Try all the states your grandfather lived in and you did. McDonald's is hq in Illinois I think. Ask there.
posted by AugustWest at 7:18 PM on June 5 [1 favorite]

A boyfriend at the time gave me a share of Apple stock in 1983. I love stock splits! And dividend checks.

I lost track of it for a while, but got it back through unclaimed property.

Sharp-eyed neighbors are great too.

Good luck tracking them down!
posted by rw at 8:04 PM on June 5

Ditto all the unclaimed property searches. I had some endeavor knock on my door with a couple thousand or so that was evidently mine (maybe long lost insurance thing or something). There's a business around looking for unclaimed $$ through all of these things and tracking them down and taking a cut that sounds like a scam but they don't ask for anything but like a percentage if you get the money that was yours but that they found.

If it's legit, it's probably out there somewhere waiting for you to find it. Or it could have been the "was in the will" and you already got the $$ from probate and lawyers and such and just didn't know it.
posted by zengargoyle at 11:26 PM on June 5

Response by poster: Thanks all. I ran though all the unclaimed property sites without luck. The 'certificate' doesn't have any numbers on it and isn't all that official looking. Next, Computershare...
posted by zvs at 7:59 AM on June 6 [1 favorite]

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