Every state except Texas and Louisiana lets you nominate a beneficiary to inherit your stocks when you die. Known as a transfer on death, or TOD, declaration, the effect is that your beneficiary gets your stocks right away on death, without having to go through probate. If you own Walmart stock, you can easily set up a transfer on death registration or change the beneficiary on an existing TOD.
What is Transfer on Death Ownership?
Filing a TOD allows your named beneficiary or beneficiaries to claim your stock when you die without probate. The TOD will trump your last will and testament so it's powerful stuff. If you name Joe as the beneficiary on your Walmart TOD declaration and Jill as the beneficiary in your will, then Joe, the TOD-designated beneficiary, prevails. To be clear, your beneficiary has no rights to the stock while you're living: he cannot stop you from selling the stock or giving it away. But if you still own the stock when you die, legal ownership will pass automatically to the beneficiary.
Who Can You Name as Beneficiary?
You can name anyone as a beneficiary including minors under the age of 18. If you're nominating a child, you might consider naming an adult custodian to manage the account until the child reaches adulthood. Usually, there's a space on the TOD paperwork to specify a custodian. The TOD beneficiary would then be listed as "Anna Perkins, as custodian for Tommy Thomas under the Florida Uniform Transfers to Minors Act," for example.
You can also name multiple beneficiaries to inherit your stock in equal shares, for example, 50/50 or 25/25/25/25. You can only leave the stock in unequal shares, such as 70/30, if the transfer agent allows it. Walmart's transfer agent is Computershare, so you'll need to ask what's permitted when arranging the change of beneficiary paperwork. The dedicated Walmart stock phone number is 1-800-438-6278.
Something else to consider is whether you should name an alternate beneficiary to inherit the stock if the primary beneficiary dies before you do. Again, you can name an alternate only if the transfer agent allows it, so you'll need to check the rules with Computershare.
Filing Via Your Broker
If you have a brokerage account, contact the broker for instructions on how to perform the beneficiary change. Most likely, the broker will send you a simple form to fill out. You'll need to write the new beneficiary's name, address, phone number and Social Security number, but that's about it. Take the forms to a notary and have them notarized before mailing them back to your broker. Once you've filed the paperwork, the name of your account will change to show the name of the new TOD beneficiary, for example, "Sue Morgan, TOD Steve Morgan."
What is the Walmart Computershare Phone Number for Transfer Agent Filing?
Walmart's transfer agent is Computershare. You can contact them on the dedicated Walmart stock contact number 1-800-438-6278 to request the paperwork and discuss issues such as the multiple beneficiary rules. If you have paper stock certificates in your possession – though most people don't – you must get new certificates issued showing the name of the new beneficiary. Ask Computershare about the process here; you likely will have to send in your certificates, some extra paperwork and a letter explaining what you're trying to achieve.
A Note About Spouses
Take care if you live in Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington or Wisconsin. These are community property states and your spouse has ownership rights to your stock, even if the certificates are in your name. If you've already set up a TOD for a beneficiary other than your spouse, then your spouse will previously have signed a declaration giving up her community property rights. If you are replacing your spouse as the current beneficiary, you'll need her written consent to the beneficiary change. This is usually just a signature on the TOD forms.
Jayne Thompson earned an LLB in Law and Business Administration from the University of Birmingham and an LLM in International Law from the University of East London. She practiced in various “big law” firms before launching a career as a commercial writer. Her work has appeared on numerous financial blogs including Wealth Soup and Synchrony. Find her at www.whiterosecopywriting.com.