Smart Money

DEAR BRUCE: My sister lived many years in western Pennsylvania and then moved to Fort Myers, Florida, for about 1 1/2 years before she passed. As the executor going through her things, I found two safety box keys with no reference to which bank. I phoned a number of banks in the Fort Myers area and also in a radius of where she lived in western Pennsylvania to no avail. Do you know where I can turn to find out where she may have had her safety box? -- Arthur

DEAR ARTHUR: The fact that she has two safety deposit keys would indicate that she probably has two different boxes, one for each of those keys. What I would suggest you do (and it's not going to be fun) is get a list of ALL of the banks within three or four miles of your sister's home. Call and introduce yourself as the executor of your sister's estate and explain why you're calling. Ask for the safe deposit department and describe the keys as best you're able.

It's not a perfect system, but I don't know any other way. There is no place I have ever heard of that keeps track of all of these keys, and seldom, but once in a while, is there some kind of identifying mark on the key itself. Since there is no state income tax in Florida, authorities there will have no interest in the contents of the boxes. I do wish you well.

DEAR BRUCE: I recently ran across 10 shares of Penn Central stock. Would they have any value? If they do, how would I cash them in? -- J.V.

DEAR J.V.: You didn't mention how old the shares of stock were. The older they are, the less the likelihood they have any value. They may have been reported as lost and replaced, but that's strictly speculation on my part.

Call any large brokerage and ask them to give you the name of a company (and they will have one) that traces shares of stock. There will be a small charge, but it's certainly worth exploring.

(Send questions to bruce@brucewilliams.com. Questions of general interest will be answered in future columns. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.)

(The Bruce Williams Radio Show can now be heard 24/7 via iTunes and at www.taeradio.com. It is also available at www.brucewilliams.com.)

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