Inheriting a Vanguard account

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When a loved one passes away, your loss is coupled with the reality of the financial decisions you'll need to make. If you're inheriting a Vanguard account, our experienced associates can help you through this difficult time.

Take the first step. Call us at 888-237-9045.

Where to begin

Download our checklist for handling financial matters

We'll make inheriting a Vanguard account as easy as possible. But first, we need to make sure we can talk to you about the accounts. Please have this information ready when you call:

  • The account owner's full name and address of record.
  • The last four digits of the account owner's Social Security number.

Take the first step and call us at

We're here from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Eastern time, Monday
through Friday.


Documents you may need*
Having the appropriate paperwork will help the inheritance process go smoothly. Here are a few examples:

  • A notarized or court-certified small-estate affidavit may be requested.
  • Possibly a certified death certificate or proof of authority (certified letters of testamentary dated within 90 days) may be requested.
  • Certain account types, such as trust, custodian, guardian, or organization, may require supporting documentation. We can give you complete instructions.

* Documentation varies by account type and circumstances. Please call and speak to an associate about your situation.

Becoming the account owner

One of the first things you'll need to do is put the accounts in the names of the new account owners. You'll need to complete some paperwork, but our associates can guide you every step of the way.

As your one point of contact, we can:

  • Answer your questions.
  • Supply the forms you'll need.
  • Help you fill out the paperwork.

Account types

Retirement accounts

  • If you're the surviving spouse, consider the pros and cons of taking an IRA as a beneficiary (inheriting) or as an owner (assuming). A nonspouse beneficiary may only inherit an IRA.
  • Understand how the rules for required minimum distributions (RMDs) apply.

Learn more about inherited IRAs »

Nonretirement accounts

  • The account registration may determine how the assets will pass upon the owner's death. For example, a joint account with rights of survivorship passes automatically to the surviving owners. It's important to retitle the account in their names.
  • Some accounts may initially be retitled in the name of the estate. In this case, the account will list the name of the estate with the executor named as the authorized party to act on the account.
  • Property going to an estate will be distributed to the estate's beneficiaries after the estate executor pays expenses and applicable taxes.

How to inherit nonretirement accounts »

Other considerations

Pay attention to taxes

We strongly suggest that you consult a qualified tax professional or attorney to help determine what’s best for you.

  • You may need a date-of-death valuation report to assist you or your accountant for tax purposes. You have to be authorized to act on the account and have the proper legal documentation to request this report from us.
  • To file an income tax return, you may need information about the cost basis of any account being transferred to an estate or beneficiary. There are different cost-basis options depending on the account type. Please call to speak with an associate for details. You may also find our cost basis accounting service helpful.

Liquidate an account
If you plan to liquidate accounts you're inheriting, keep these points in mind:

  • First, you have to transfer the account to your name and register it under your Social Security number.
  • You then have several options for liquidation. We can explain them to you.
  • Note that liquidating accounts may involve taxes because you're selling shares, so you should consult a tax advisor to learn the details.

Finding an investment partner you can trust

Your loved one chose Vanguard for a reason—to help make the most of the assets you're inheriting.

Our way of serving investors is different.

  • We look at the long term.
  • We treat you like an owner because of our unique client-owned structure. We're owned by the funds, which are owned by our clients.
  • We manage our funds at cost—you only pay what it costs us to run the funds.

When you're ready to make financial plans for the future, we hope you'll make us your trusted partner as your loved one did.

Learn about our different way of investing »




Call us at

8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Eastern time, Monday
through Friday

Mailing addresses

U.S. mail
P.O. Box 1110
Valley Forge, PA

455 Devon Park Drive
Wayne, PA

Other resources

Legal forms
Legal solutions for your family and your business

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