There are four major dates in the process of a company paying dividends:
Declaration date� This is the date on which the board of directors announces to shareholders and the market as a whole that the company will pay a dividend. Ex-date or Ex-dividend date� On (or after) this date the security trades without its dividend. If you buy a dividend paying stock one day before the ex-dividend you will still get the dividend, but if you buy on the ex-dividend date, you won't get the dividend. Conversely, if you want to sell a stock and still receive a dividend that has been declared you need to sell on (or after) the ex-dividend day. The ex-date is the second business day before the date of record. Date of record� This is the date on which the company looks at its records to see who the shareholders of the company are. An investor must be listed as a holder of record to ensure the right of a dividend payout. Date of payment (payable date) � This is the date the company mails out the dividend to the holder of record. This date is generally a week or more after the date of record so that the company has sufficient time to ensure that it accurately pays all those who are entitled. Why All These Dates? Ex-dividend dates are used to make sure dividend checks go to the right people. In today's market, settlement of stocks is a T+3 process, which means that when you buy a stock, it takes three days from the transaction date (T) for the change to be entered into the company's record books.
As mentioned, if you are not in the company's record books on the date of record, you won't receive the dividend payment. To ensure that you are in the record books, you need to buy the stock at least three days before the date of record, which also happens to be the day before the ex-dividend date. If you buy on the ex-dividend date, which is only two days before the date of record, you will not receive the dividend because your name will not appear in the company's record books until the day after.
Last I saw was .69 per share FFO per quarter and with a .655 per quarter dividend (recently raised by .005) it appears safe. I expect another "change of accounting" announcement soon, but that doesn't affect actual cash, just the accounting of it. For example, figure .17 per quarter for "return of capital" (non-taxed for you, but lower your per share basis); this amount could likely change. As for growth, it is not happening by retained earnings but by borrowing for acquisitions and new construction. This is a steady company with a long lease life. Look for entry to buy around 15% off its record high and you should be fine.