My father asked my brother to handle the estate affairs upon our parent's death (they passed last year). There is no will. My brother and I were left some stocks. I agreed to let my brother transfer the full amount to his name and cash out my half to me. What's bothering me is that I only have my brother's word regarding how many stocks existed, and he didn't offer to show me any proof of that amount. He has been straight (as far as I know) about everything else and I want to believe he is straight about dividing the stocks equally - but the only way I feel i can be sure without making him feel that I don't trust him is to call the firm that held the stocks and ask them for the amout my dad had before any stocks were transfered to my brother. Can I do that? Will they tell me?
I agree with the prior attorney. The only other explanation is that the brokerage account was set up in your joint names with dad. If that is the case you have every right to make the call. You should make the call in any event and you need an estates lawyer to review any statement you get or if you do not get statements and your brother refuses to present them. You need full transparancy here and anything less is unacceptable and potently deceitful and dishonest. Get an estates attorney immediately.
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I'm curious how your brother was able to access the stock certificates without being appointed as the administrator of your father's estate. If he did seek to administer the estate, then he would have to document everything that comes into the estate and make a report to the Probate Court. I have never dealt with a stock broker or stocks that could be transferred without an executor or administrator being appointed. The probate process protects the broker and ensures the stocks are transferred as provided by law. If this is the case, the information you desire would be readily available through the court process.
I hope this helps.
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Estate Planning Attorney
I agree with the other two attorneys who answered this question given only the facts you stated, but I believe more information is required to answer you fully. The first thing you need to do is to ask your brother if he went to the probate court in the county in which your parents died to file a petition for adminstration in order to receive letters of administration (authority that he can act on behalf of your parents' estates). If your brother has not done this, then I agree that the brokerage account containing the stocks must have been in joint names with your father and your brother and maybe with you as well, but not necessarily. If the stocks were in joint names with your father and brother only and they are now only in your brother's name, then when he gave you cash from the sale of the stocks, this was a gift to you. If the cashyou received from him was in excess of $13,000 (annual exclusion amount which does not carry a gift tax), your brother is supposed to file a gift tax return. He may be required to pay some gift tax, depending on what choices he makes with regard to the tax. I don't think the broker will talk with you, unless the stocks were also in your name. However, your brother is in a fiduciary capacity and owes you an accounting of the stock transactions.
You did not mention if your parents died together or separately. Also, are there other assets your father and/or your mother owned at the time of their deaths other than personal property (clothing, household goods, jewelry, automobiles)? Do you have other siblings? To fully answer your original question, I need to know all these facts and more.
Please let me know if you need further assistance. I am more than happy to answer your questions.
Peatsa C. Wallace
Attorney at Law