When money funds fall below the minimum

QI have a money-market mutual-fund account with less than $500. I just received notice that $20 was withdrawn from the account because it fell below the required account minimum. I have protested to the fund company. What redress do I have?

O.L., New York

AVery little. According to a spokesman for the Investment Company Institute in Washington, the main trade association for mutual funds, fund companies can charge maintenance fees for failing to satisfy minimum account balances. As a courtesy, many contact customers before withdrawing a penalty from an account.

So you can either accept the penalty and face future penalties if the account stays below the required balance, add money to the account so it's above the minimum, or take your money somewhere else.

QWhat happens to mutual funds that do not list a beneficiary? How are the funds claimed by a survivor of the owner? Also: My mother is considering liquidating her own mutual funds and replacing them with annuities. Any thoughts?

Name withheld, via e-mail

AFunds without beneficiaries pass to the owner's estate, says a spokesman for Fidelity Investments in Boston. The funds and the estate would then be distributed according to the will.

As for your mother's funds, you need to know the tax consequences of moving those assets. If the mutual funds are moved from one tax-exempt account to another, they are unlikely to incur a tax, the spokesman says. But if the funds are not tax-sheltered, and then are sold to buy other types of funds, they will likely trigger capital-gains taxes upon the sale.

QI would like to sell some stocks. But I have lost the certificates. It is a small number - only about 10 to 15 shares. How do I sell the shares?

J.E., Susanville, Calif.

A Call a customer service representative at the company that issued the stock, and explain your situation. The company will explain what to do. You may have to provide proof of ownership, such as having your signature validated by a notary or bank official.

If you used a broker to buy the stock, the brokerage in effect is the registered party. If that is the case, contact the brokerage for instructions on how to proceed.

Questions about finances? Write:

Guy Halverson

The Christian Science Monitor

500 Fifth Ave., Suite 1845

New York, NY 10110

E-mail: halversong@csps.com

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