Skip to main content

What can I do with this account?

Your options depend on what type of account it is. We'll help you answer that question and move to the next step.

What type of account is it?

Let's determine what type of Vanguard account your loved one had.

Is it a joint account?

If you and the decedent owned a joint account, you can transfer the account into your name after your loved one's death by completing a Change of Ownership Form. Call us at 877-662-7447, and we'll help you complete the form.

Is it an IRA?

If your loved one invested in an IRA (whether a traditional, Roth, SEP, or SIMPLE), then he or she had a retirement account.*

Is it something other than an IRA?

An individual account is a nonretirement account. Likewise, a mutual fund or brokerage account that isn't labeled an IRA is probably a nonretirement account.

What you can expect during the account transfer

You're inheriting your loved one's investments—not money. That means you can't cash out the account until you've transferred it into your name.

Life insurance policies typically pay off with a check to each beneficiary. But an investment account is more like a car. When someone sells—or, if you're lucky, gives—you a car, the title is transferred to you, making you the owner. In that sense, investment accounts are more like cars than they are like insurance policies.

We'll help you move that account into your name, and then you can choose whether to change the investments in the account or even sell them.

Selling the investments

If you decide to sell the investments after you've transferred the account into your name, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Liquidating the account can provide you with money that can help you in any number of ways. But because you're selling the investments, you may wind up with a tax bill.

Generally, if you were to leave the inherited account invested, you could avoid paying any taxes on it. The IRS may consider selling the investments, on the other hand, as a taxable event.

If you're considering selling the investments, check with an attorney or a tax advisor to avoid any surprises.

We're here to help

Call 877-662-7447

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

Stay organized

We know that inheriting a Vanguard account is just one of the tasks on your to-do list during this busy time.

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.


The account owner who has died.

Layer opened.

Joint account

An account with two or more owners.

Layer opened.


A type of account created by the IRS that offers tax benefits when used to save for retirement.

Layer opened.

Mutual fund

A type of investment that pools shareholder money and invests it in a variety of securities. Each investor owns shares of the fund and can buy or sell these shares at any time. Mutual funds typically have lower costs and are more diversified and convenient than investing in individual securities, and they're professionally managed.

Layer opened.

Brokerage account

An account held with a registered broker-dealer that allows the investor to deposit securities with the firm and place investment orders through the broker, which then carries out the transactions on the investor's behalf. Investors can trade stocks and bonds, options, and exchange-traded funds; place special types of orders (stop and limit orders, for example); and trade on margin.