Learn more about inherited IRAs


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What forms do I need?

If you decide to assume or inherit your deceased spouse's Vanguard IRA®, click here to change the ownership of a Vanguard account. If you elect not to assume or inherit the IRA (for example, disclaim the assets), contact Vanguard for the appropriate instructions and necessary forms.

Vanguard's RMD service

After taking ownership of the IRA, if you're the sole primary beneficiary and a registered user of Vanguard.com, you can sign up for Vanguard's RMD service. If you're not listed as the sole primary beneficiary, contact Vanguard for more information.

Tax issues

Generally, distributions of pre-tax contributions and earnings from inherited IRAs are tax reportable distributions included in your ordinary income. However, distributions of earnings from a Roth IRA may generally be tax-free if the original account owner had held the account for at least five years. When you withdraw from an inherited Roth IRA and the five-year condition is met, your withdrawals will be tax- and penalty-free.

For tax reporting purposes, distributions occur under your Social Security number or the taxpayer identification number of the beneficiary. For any year in which you fail to satisfy the RMD, you must pay an IRS penalty equal to 50% of the RMD amount that was not withdrawn. (The distribution amount is also considered tax reportable and included in your ordinary income.) For information and assistance regarding tax issues, consult a qualified tax advisor.


Here are key dates you should keep in mind to make sure you meet the IRS deadlines that apply to the options you choose.

  • December 31 of the original account owner's year of death. If the account owner died on or after his or her required beginning date (RBD), the RMD for the year must be satisfied if it was not taken in full during the account owner's lifetime.
  • December 31 of the year following the original account owner's year of death. If you are taking RMD based on the life-expectancy method, distributions must begin by this date. If you are one of multiple beneficiaries, all beneficiaries must have established separate inherited IRA accounts by this date in order to calculate distributions based upon each beneficiary's own life expectancy.
  • September 30 of the year following the original account owner's year of death. Important for determining the beneficiary whose life expectancy may be used to calculate RMD (the designated beneficiary). If you're one of multiple beneficiaries of varying ages, all beneficiaries must use the life expectancy factor of the oldest beneficiary who has not taken a lump-sum distribution or disclaimed his or her entire interest prior to this date. However, if all of the beneficiaries have established separate IRA accounts by December 31 of the year following the account owner's death, then all beneficiaries may be able to use their own life expectancy factors to calculate their RMD. Check with your tax advisor to see if you are eligible for this benefit.
  • October 31 of the year following the account owner's year of death. Important if you are the trustee of a trust named as IRA beneficiary. The IRS mandates that trustees provide Vanguard with a copy of the trust document or a summary list of the trust's beneficiaries and conditions by this date. If this requirement is not met, or if the trust failed to meet certain other IRS requirements, it's not considered a qualifying trust eligible for more favorable RMD calculations, usually based on the life-expectancy of the oldest trust beneficiary.
  • Within nine months after the original account owner's death. If you're planning to disclaim the assets, your written disclaimer generally must be received no later than nine months after the date on which you become entitled to the assets, according to IRS regulations.

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Related topics

Inherited nonspousal IRAs
Inherited spousal IRAs