Sunday 29 March 2015

Can we cash in our late father's secret shares?

Jim Hegarty

Published 20/07/2014 | 02:30

Jim Hegarty
Jim Hegarty

My father passed away a few years ago. A letter regarding his entitlement to overseas shares was recently posted to our old family home. My siblings and I had no idea that he held these shares - which appear to be quite valuable. However, we can't find any share certificate for the shares so we're afraid that the money he invested could be lost forever - and unable to pass on to us. Will we be able to cash in those shares and how would be go about it?

Anne, Rush, Co Dublin

Jim replies: Your question highlights the importance for people to have a record of all of their financial assets.

The good news is that your father's shares aren't lost. There is a register of shareholders for all public companies. You should contact the company registrar so that a new share certificate can be sent to you. If the shares on the company register are still in your father's name, you will need the executor of the estate to amend the beneficiary name of the shares. The registrar will explain to you what is required.

Once you have a share certificate in hand, any of the leading stockbroking firms could set up a standard execution-only account to arrange the sale of the shares if desired -or alternatively, they can set up a trading account.

It would also be a good idea to check your father's tax returns. He may have made tax returns on share dividends and this would also identify any other shares he may have had an interest in.

Pensions funds

I have accumulated a number of pension funds over my working life because I changed jobs so frequently. All the funds add up to about €130,000. Is it a good idea to merge all funds into the one and how would I go about it?

Three of the funds are Irish-based PRSAs. Another is a Mercer pension which I hold with my current employer - also Irish. The other fund is one which I paid into while working in Britain.

Valerie, Kilkenny

Jim replies: You mention that you have various PRSA policies and also have an occupational pension plan through Mercer at present. You should ascertain if you have Approved Retirement Fund (ARF - a personal retirement fund where you keep your money invested after retirement as a lump sum) options under your current occupational scheme.

Assuming that you have, you could transfer your PRSA plans to the company scheme and you may have the option of accessing your funds from the age of 50 onwards. You should have this clarified at your next review with Mercer. If you have built up significant service with the company, you might be able to strike an arrangement where you get a higher tax-free lump sum than the 25pc available under the ARF route.

Now on to your British pension. You first need to check with the British Revenue authority (HMRC) to see if the pension can be transferred to an Irish scheme - which it more than likely will be.

Be mindful however of where you stand on tax. Since April 6, 2012, it has been a British tax requirement for all pension payments to be reported. This applies even if you have ceased to be a British tax resident for longer than five years. This again is something which you should discuss with Mercer.

Jim Hegarty is managing director of the Dublin financial advisers Hegarty Financial Management.

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