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I tell my clients (or their children, since many of my clients are quite elderly and as lacking in computer skills as I am) to put together and Excel or similar sheet for each stock. Original purchase date, price, and shares, any dividend reinvestments and/or additional purchases, splits, stock dividends, spin-offs, etc. In many cases, whoever was in charge of the family finances (usually the husband, but not always) had some manual version of this, thank God.

The requirement that brokerages track this stuff, and the increased willingness of people to leave their stocks and such in their brokerage accounts, has been a blessing for tax accountants everywhere. There's nothing as dicey as having to ask a widow whose husband passed away five, ten, twenty years earlier, "OK, we have to start somewhere. Who was the President when Max bought this stock the first time? How old were your kids, what grade were they in? Who won the World Series that year?" (You'd be amazed how many non-sports-fan widows know the answer to that last one)

If they keep a computerized record, when a spouse dies, the survivor has an up-to-date record, and making the step-up calculation becomes very easy. The spreadsheet for the stock does NOT go with the tax return, but a copy should be with the taxpayer's copy of the return for the year of sale.

Count on the broker for the routine transactions that effect the number of shares and cost, but for the other things, such as the partial step-up or a change of brokers, you need your own records.
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