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I'm inheriting an IRA

The options available to you depend on your relationship to the account owner.

I'm the account owner's spouse

If you're the account owner's spouse, you have 3 options for what to do with an IRA:

  • You can assume the IRA (sometimes referred to "treating it as your own," since the IRS treats an assumed IRA as though it had always been yours).
  • You can act as a beneficiary and inherit the IRA.
  • You can disclaim the IRA.

Assuming the IRA

 

You can only assume the IRA if you're the account owner's surviving spouse and you're the IRA's only beneficiary.

Assuming the IRA means that, if you're eligible, you can add your own contributions to it. And for traditional IRAs, you won't take a required minimum distribution (RMD) until you reach age 70½.

Inheriting the IRA

 

Inheriting an IRA means transferring the proceeds from your loved one's account into a new IRA in your name. If you inherit the IRA rather than assume it, you may have to begin taking RMDs in the year after the year of the IRA owner's death.

Disclaiming the IRA

 

You may refuse to accept ownership of—that is, disclaim—the investments in your loved one's IRA, either in part or in full.

We recommend that you discuss the decision to disclaim an IRA with an attorney or a tax advisor. Typically, if you disclaim an IRA, you can't change your mind later.

Ready to assume or inherit your spouse's IRA?

Call us at 877-662-7447. We'll send you the information you need, and we'll work with you every step of the way.

For tax purposes, you may need to know how much the investments were worth on the day your loved one died—the date-of-death value. You can request that information when you call us.

When the account transfer is complete, we'll send you and any other beneficiaries a letter or an email letting you know the account has been transferred into your names.

I'm not the account owner's spouse

All beneficiaries have 2 options for what to do with an IRA:

  • You can inherit the IRA.
  • You can disclaim the IRA.

Inheriting the IRA

 

Inheriting an IRA means transferring the proceeds from your loved one's account into a new IRA in your name. Nonspouse beneficiaries—including the account owner's children—must take a required minimum distribution (RMD) when they inherit an IRA.

Disclaiming the IRA

 

You may refuse to accept ownership of—that is, disclaim—the investments in your loved one's IRA, either in part or in full.

We recommend that you discuss the decision to disclaim an IRA with an attorney or a tax advisor. Typically, if you disclaim an IRA, you can't change your mind later.

Ready to inherit the IRA?

Call us at 877-662-7447. We'll send you the information you need, and we'll work with you every step of the way.

For tax purposes, you may need to know how much the investments were worth on the day your loved one died—the date-of-death value. You can request that information when you call us.

When the account transfer is complete, we'll send you and any other beneficiaries a letter or an email letting you know the account has been transferred into your names.

Your new Vanguard account

When the transfer is complete and you have a new Vanguard account in your name, you might want to take a look at the services we provide to make your investing life easier.

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.

REFERENCE CONTENT

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IRA

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

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Beneficiary

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.

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Required minimum distribution (RMD)

Under federal tax law, most owners of IRAs (except Roth IRAs) must withdraw part of their tax-deferred savings each year, starting at age 70½ (or after inheriting an account). If you withdraw less than your RMD, you may owe a 50% penalty tax on the difference.

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Date-of-death value

The value of the investments in the account on the day the account owner died.

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Required minimum distribution (RMD)

Under federal tax law, most owners of IRAs (except Roth IRAs) must withdraw part of their tax-deferred savings each year, starting at age 70½ (or after inheriting an account). If you withdraw less than your RMD, you may owe a 50% penalty tax on the difference.

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Date-of-death value

The value of the investments in the account on the day the account owner died.