Cost Basis for Inherited Stock

Here's how to figure the value of your shares.

I just inherited some stock from my uncle, and I know that he bought the stock for more than the present cost. Should I find the original cost, or do I use the cost as of the date I inherited the stock? --M.P., via e-mail

The cost basis for inherited stock is usually based on its value on the date of the original owner’s death -- whether it has increased or lost value over time. If the stock is worth more than the purchase price, the value is stepped up to the value at death. If, for example, your uncle purchased the stock for $100 and it was worth $250 when he died, your basis would be $250 and you would not be taxed on the gain that occurred while he was alive. When you sell the stock, your tax bill would be based on the gain or loss on that $250.

Likewise, you can’t claim a loss for losses incurred while the original owner was alive. If your uncle purchased the stock for $250, for instance, and the value had dipped to $100 by the date he died, then your basis would be $100.

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There are a few exceptions. The executor of a large estate who files an estate-tax return can choose to set the basis at the value six months after the owner died rather than at the date of death. Also, special rules applied to large estates that were transferred to heirs in 2010.

My thanks to Jeff Kosnett for his help this month.

Kimberly Lankford
Contributing Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

As the "Ask Kim" columnist for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Lankford receives hundreds of personal finance questions from readers every month. She is the author of Rescue Your Financial Life (McGraw-Hill, 2003), The Insurance Maze: How You Can Save Money on Insurance -- and Still Get the Coverage You Need (Kaplan, 2006), Kiplinger's Ask Kim for Money Smart Solutions (Kaplan, 2007) and The Kiplinger/BBB Personal Finance Guide for Military Families. She is frequently featured as a financial expert on television and radio, including NBC's Today Show, CNN, CNBC and National Public Radio.