Investing

QUESTION Paper Share Certificates (AST Trust)

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  • Oct 17th, 2020 7:20 pm
[OP]
Member
Feb 13, 2017
369 posts
350 upvotes
toronto, ontario

QUESTION Paper Share Certificates (AST Trust)

My elderly parents own almost 4,000 shares of BCE Inc. (symbol BCE.TO) which they bought over 25 years ago.

As part of long-term estate planning, they have decided to sell their entire holding of BCE shares.

Major complication... these are paper share certificates physically stored at a company called AST Trust.

Key problem... ALL attempts to communicate with AST Trust have been completely futile. They do not respond to mailed letters, e-mails, or phone messages (as no direct line seems available).

My parents still receive regular statements and dividend payouts so their account is obviously current and active.

Has anyone here dealt with AST Trust recently? Or redeemed paper share certificates in a similar situation?

Your advice and suggestions are most appreciated. Thanks in advance!
12 replies
Deal Fanatic
Aug 17, 2008
8072 posts
8696 upvotes
Nothing gets people's attention like contacting a regulator with your documented attempts to contact the Trustco.

Consistent 1 star Google reviews with the same complaint as yours. Time to move everything out of there. GL
Deal Fanatic
User avatar
May 11, 2014
5514 posts
7325 upvotes
Rankin Inlet, NU
According to the BCE and my experience with AST previously, to sell shares, you submit the request on the quarterly statement. There should be a part you can cut off, sign and mailback. They process it and mail you a cheque. Alternatively, ask for the shares on the same form in paper certificates, then deposit the certificate at a brokerage of your choice (enquire about fees with each brokerage) and sell online.

https://www.bce.ca/assets/investors/div ... rcular.pdf
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[OP]
Member
Feb 13, 2017
369 posts
350 upvotes
toronto, ontario
xgbsSS wrote: According to the BCE and my experience with AST previously, to sell shares, you submit the request on the quarterly statement. There should be a part you can cut off, sign and mailback. They process it and mail you a cheque.
This sounds like the ideal method to sell my parents' BCE shares.
xgbsSS wrote: Alternatively, ask for the shares on the same form in paper certificates, then deposit the certificate at a brokerage of your choice (enquire about fees with each brokerage) and sell online.
I'll keep this in mind should Plan A (above) fail. Thank you!
Deal Addict
User avatar
Mar 25, 2012
1872 posts
1064 upvotes
Kelowna
@PhotoSmurf Ideally, yes, it'd be nice if they can sell your paper share certificates, but I'm not convinced they will do this. I fear I may have to convert my paper HSBC Holdings plc shares into electronic, book-entry format with a brokerage firm in order to sell them. Your best bet would be going with a brokerage firm and seeing if they'll waive all or part of the share certificate deposit fees. They may do this, especially if you are retaining a significant amount of business with them.

Cheers,
Doug
Jr. Member
Jun 12, 2015
110 posts
48 upvotes
Earth
I am not sure where you are located. But their office is in downtown Toronto. If the office is open barring COVID, you are better off dropping the paperwork yourself. Make sure to inquire about their commission. Also you won't be able to control the price they sell those shares at.

Alternatively, you can ask them to transfer the paper certificates into electronic format so it can be transferred to a brokerage. Keep in mind that brokerage these days, depends on which one you use, are sneaky and do charge from $0-$250 just to accept transfer of DRS certificates so you can sell those shares. Plus commission costs but at least you can decided when to sell and at what price.

Good luck.
Member
Jan 24, 2013
467 posts
431 upvotes
Rainy River
OP you make it sound like AST Trust Company has 4000 shares certificated and is physically storing the certificate for your parents. To the best of my knowledge AST Trust does not hold certificates for safekeeping, so if your parents have 4000 certificated shares they would likely have them in a safety deposit box or a filing cabinet somewhere. As previous posters stated find a quarterly statement and fill out the bottom stub portion of it, the way I read the bottom stub would seem to indicate that you can only sell the shares if you are terminating the plan. If doing a partial withdrawal you can request a certificate if the shares are just plan shares and have not yet been certificated.

Most discount brokerages don't charge for certificate deposits, Questrade and Scotia Itrade do charge so do your homework first if opening a discount brokerage account to deposit the cert. into.

One other thing perhaps your parents just recently requested a certificate for 4000 shares (that would explain the 4000 shares certificated but no certificate received part of the story). If that is the case it could just be that AST is slow on the request. Sometimes I've seen them take up to a couple months getting the certificates out.

Phone number for them is 1-800-387-0825, leave a message they will call you back.
Deal Addict
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Mar 25, 2012
1872 posts
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Kelowna
On 4,000 paper shares, a $200-250 certificate deposit fee is small potatoes and, to me, I would just go that route. Besides, you can deduct that fee from what are likely hefty capital gains taxes payable. Better than not being able to control the timing of the sale. Imagine AST Trust Company of Canada selling the shares the day before, or a few days before, the record date of the next dividend payment. On 4,000 shares, that missed dividend payment is a heck of a lot more than a $200-250 fee.

For someone like me, a $200-250 fee to sell ~250 shares of HSBC Holdings plc stock is a lot of money. On 4,000 shares of BCE stock, it's not at all. It's a pittance, really. Just pay it and be done with it, @PhotoSmurf.

Cheers,
Doug
[OP]
Member
Feb 13, 2017
369 posts
350 upvotes
toronto, ontario
livefreeordie wrote: I am not sure where you are located. But their office is in downtown Toronto.
Yes, we are also located in Toronto, Ontario.
retireyoung55 wrote: OP you make it sound like AST Trust Company has 4000 shares certificated and is physically storing the certificate for your parents. To the best of my knowledge AST Trust does not hold certificates for safekeeping, so if your parents have 4000 certificated shares they would likely have them in a safety deposit box or a filing cabinet somewhere.
My parents do not possess the physical share certificates. I do not know if AST Trust has the physical share certificates or just the electronic version of the same. From the information provided by others here, it appears AST Trust could be instructed to issue physical share certificates or the cash sale proceeds of those same holdings.
Member
Jan 24, 2013
467 posts
431 upvotes
Rainy River
So by your last response, these could be plan shares that are on the last quarterly statement. Again you can either mail in the stub portion of the account statement and request a certificate (your parents or parent depending on the ownership of the account need to sign the statement stub requesting the cert.). Then take the certificate to a discount brokerage account for deposit. Alternatively you can write a letter and mail it in to AST requesting a certificate. If the account is joint tenancy than both your parents must sign the letter and ensure you put on the letter their account number etc. It isn't that big a deal but be patient, AST doesn't move that quickly.
Deal Addict
Jul 13, 2007
1161 posts
667 upvotes
Toronto
I have no idea what your parents' other income is, but if they sell it all at once, they'll have a big capital gains tax bill next year because it's going to bump them up tax brackets.

A better approach may be to sell some now and sell some this year and some next at least to break it up, as that's only in 6 months, but will give them another year to pay less tax, while collecting a few more dividends. If they have any need for USD, if they deposit some shares at a brokerage, they could sell some on the US side of their brokerage account (on NYSE, not TSX) and get USD with basically zero exchange cost.

TD Direct Investing (Waterhouse) doesn't charge to deposit certificates last I checked.

Finally, maybe email BCE's Investor Relations. These departments are usually very responsive. Don't mention the selling, but just mention the certificates that you want and that AST isn't being responsive. [email protected] I've even emailed these departments about customer stuff, because I know they're well funded and professional.
Deal Fanatic
Aug 17, 2008
8072 posts
8696 upvotes
@PhotoSmurf Any luck? If not, here's hope.

BRIEF-TMX Group To Acquire AST Trust Company (Canada) In $165 Million Deal
Sept 25 (Reuters) - TMX Group Ltd:

* TMX GROUP ANNOUNCES AGREEMENT TO ACQUIRE AST TRUST COMPANY (CANADA)
* TMX GROUP LTD - DEAL FOR $165 MILLION
* TMX GROUP LTD - TRANSACTION IS EXPECTED TO BE FINANCED WITH A COMBINATION OF CASH AND DEBT CAPACITY
* TMX GROUP - TRANSACTION EXPECTED TO HAVE POSITIVE IMPACT ON CO'S ADJUSTED EARNINGS PER SHARE IN FIRST FULL YEAR OF OWNERSHIP, BEFORE EXPECTED SYNERGIES
* TMX GROUP LTD - EXPECT TO REALIZE COMBINED REVENUE AND TECHNOLOGY COST SYNERGIES OF ABOUT $8.0 MILLION OVER FIRST TWO YEARS, FOLLOWING ACQUISITION Source text for Eikon: Further company coverage:
[OP]
Member
Feb 13, 2017
369 posts
350 upvotes
toronto, ontario
MrMom wrote: @PhotoSmurf Any luck?
Nope. It has been a complete nightmare dealing with AST Trust and COVID-19 hasn't helped either. Two hour wait times by phone and weeks long responses by e-mail... plus contradictory information when contact is made.

I did learn that stock shares can be held in three different formats... as physical certificates (largely discontinued), as Direct Registration Shares (DRS), and as Non-Certificated Shares.

Direct Registration Share (DRS) seem to be the most desirable format as these can be (supposedly) transferred with least amount of problems. Unfortunately, my parents' hold the other two types of stock shares.

In any event, my parents still receive regular dividend payments from their BCE shares so I'm going to give this another shot sometime next year.

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