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Inheriting a Vanguard account

We know how hard it can be when you lose someone. It's a difficult time. But know that we're here to make the transfer as seamless as possible.

Understand the transfer process

Here's a general, step-by-step process for beneficiaries that shows how inheriting a Vanguard account will work (note: executors will still need to call us).

  1. Prepare before you start
    In order to complete the process online, you must:
  • Be inheriting an individual account, joint account (registered as "joint tenants with rights of survivorship"), traditional IRA, Roth IRA, or SEP-IRA.
  • Be listed by name as beneficiary on the account.
  • Have the full Social Security number for the person who passed away.
  • Have a digital copy of the death certificate.

  1. Complete the online process
    While completing the transfer, you'll be asked to:
  • Log in (if you're a Vanguard client already) or register for online access (if you're not a Vanguard client already) by creating a username and password.
  • Provide information about the person who passed away. Vanguard will then attempt to verify that the person has passed away using our systems. If we're unable to, we'll ask you to upload a digital copy of the death certificate.

Creating a digital copy of the death certificate
You may be asked to upload an image or a PDF. If you need to create a digital copy, the easiest way is to take a picture of the physical document with your phone, email it to yourself, and then save it to your computer.

  1. After you submit your transfer request
    Once you've submitted your request, Vanguard will:
  • Freeze the account of the person who passed away to protect it from unauthorized activity.
  • Process your request and notify you once the transfer is completed.

Remember, for anyone inheriting an IRA, you'll generally be required to take a required minimum distribution


Ready to get started?

Begin online

Or call us at 877-320-4822 if you have a more complex scenario

Your questions answered

We've found that people inheriting accounts tend to have similar questions.

Inheritance glossary

Being familiar with these terms might help as you transfer your loved one's account into your name.


Layer opened.


A person or organization designated to receive the proceeds of an investment account (or an insurance policy, a pension, or an annuity contract) after the owner's death.