You’ve learned you’re the executor/executrix for someone who has passed away. There’s often a lot to do and a lot to take care of, and it can be a very emotional time. We're here to help. Below you’ll find a general overview of the important things you should know.
Being named an executor means that someone who's passed away is relying on you to handle the tasks of transferring their assets to the right people—like family members or relatives who are identified in legal documents (a will, for example). In some cases, Vanguard can only take direction from an executor: we need to know who, legally speaking, is authorized to tell us where to move a deceased person's assets.
Sometimes, an executor will need to play a more active role to coordinate the transfer of assets (like when there are no beneficiaries listed on the accounts). Other times, they'll play a more passive role (like when there are beneficiaries listed on the accounts). It really depends on the circumstances. The information here outlines the process, in a general way, for executors who need to play a more active role.
One of the first things you’ll want to have ready is the court document that shows you’re the executor. As a reminder, this isn’t the will.
The will is something created by the person who passed away. But what Vanguard needs is a document provided by the decedent's local courthouse. It's called something different, depending on what state you live in. But here are a few common names:
Vanguard will ask you for this document and, once we have a copy of it, we’ll be able to take direction from you on how to distribute the assets. Also, while Vanguard can provide you with the various options available to you as an executor, we suggest consulting an attorney or tax professional if you want more in-depth estate guidance.
A large part of the executor's job is to complete the right documents to get the decedent's assets to the right people. To do that, it's important to understand how the transfer process works at Vanguard.
The first thing to keep in mind is that it's not like life insurance. With life insurance policies, you’re often able to have a check sent to a beneficiary as cash. But coordinating transfers at financial institutions like Vanguard will work a little differently.
Generally speaking, here are the steps from an executor's perspective:
You’ll just want to remember that selling investments may have tax consequences, so we usually suggest consulting a tax advisor first.
If you’ve been made executor, here are a few tips that might help keep you organized and prepared.
We offer the ability to make some inheritance transfers online. It's only available for certain account types at the moment. If you'd like to begin online, you can start here.