You should know the answers to the questions in the checklist below. Understanding the topics involved will help you make the most of your stock options and prevent costly mistakes.

1. What type of stock options do I have?

2. Is formal acceptance of the grant required? What happens if I don't accept the grant before exercise?

3. What is the vesting schedule?

4. How long is the term of the stock options?

5. What is the deadline for exercising the options to prevent the expiration of the grant?

6. What would happen to the stock options if I were to leave or lose my job, die, become disabled, or retire? How do these events affect vesting and the expiration date of the option grant?

7. What is the exercise price of my stock options, and how do I exercise them?

8. After I exercise my options, in what account will the shares or cash proceeds appear?

9. How does the tax withholding work? What are the tax rates for NQSOs? (There is no withholding for ISOs.)

10. What would happen to vested stock options in a corporate acquisition or merger? What if my stock options have not yet vested when the corporate change in control happens?

In addition, you should understand the tax treatment of the options you have. Nonqualified stock options and incentive stock options are taxed differently. This website's Tax Center covers all tax topics involving stock compensation. For key financial-planning questions to ask about your stock options, see a related FAQ.