If you own stock, you have an asset you can dispose of as you please, much like other types of assets. If you want to buy more stock, sell the stock you own or transfer it to another person, then you have the right to do so. Many transfers occur upon death, under the instruction of a will, trust or other estate planning document, but you can also transfer stocks to others while you are alive.
With written authorization, you can transfer your stock to anyone you like. On the back of each stock certificate is a place where you can endorse your stock over to someone else. You can also use a stock transfer form that most financial services firms offer to clients. In either case, you will need a signature guarantee from the issuing firm confirming that you have been positively identified as the owner of the stock. With these documents, the recipient of your stock can deposit the stock into an account under his name.
When you die, your assets must pass to someone else. You can choose who will receive your stock if you name that person in your will or trust. The executor or administrator of your estate is bound to transfer your stock to the person you select. If you die without a will, or what is known as intestate, each state has its own laws for how your assets will pass. If you want to ensure that your stock passes to the person you want, you must name that person in some type of estate planning document.
If you have a joint account, you share ownership with another individual. If you want to transfer stock that you own in a joint name, then you also need the written permission of the other owner. If you want to transfer your stock into your co-owner's sole name, you can accomplish this in the traditional way by signing a stock power or other type of written authorization. Most joint accounts allow survivorship rights as well, meaning your stock will automatically pass to your co-owner upon your death.
If you transfer your stock to an individual, then that person generally inherits your original cost basis for tax purposes. If you donate stock to a charity, then you can take a tax deduction for the fair market value of your donated stock, something you cannot do if you transfer the stock to an individual. Gifts to individuals are also subject to the annual gift tax exclusion limit. If you transfer stock above the annual valuation limit to an individual, you will owe the IRS gift tax.