Structured Settlements - Overview of Annuity Payments and How They Work
Structured settlements are a financial arrangement oftentimes used when an individual is awarded a large sum of money. This might stem from monetary awards used to compensate a person who has been seriously injured or from lottery jackpot winnings. Structured settlements are oftentimes used in cases involving automobile or workplace injuries, medical malpractice and injuries sustained due to the negligence of another.
There are several types of structured settlements with each being designed to suit the individual's financial needs. Typically, they are offered when damages exceed $10,000. In the case of a minor child, damages must exceed $5,000. Annuity payments are paid to the recipient (Annuitant) over a specific period of time.
Depending on the circumstances and amount of monetary award, Annuitant's might receive payments over the course of 10 to 20 years or for their entire lifetime. Much depends on the type and duration of medical care required, as well as living expenses.
Structured settlements are also arranged to compensate individual's who win jackpot lotteries. For instance, if someone wins $5 million, they can elect to take a lump sum payment or receive the money over a period of years. By accepting a lump sum payment, they will receive a lesser amount than if they elect to accept a structured settlement.
Similar to Certificate of Deposits (CDs) sold by banks, structured settlements are backed by an annuity held by a life insurance company. Annuities are invested to expand the Annuitant's financial portfolio. When annuity payments are paid as a result of injury or negligence, they are tax free. When they are paid for lottery winnings, they might be subject to taxation of both state and federal levels. Additionally, investment proceeds are subject to both state and federal taxes.
When structured settlements are paid for a specific period of time, they are referred to as "Designated Period" or "Period Certain Annuities." The Annuitant receives a set amount of money at a specific time for a certain number of years. Should the Annuitant die before the structured settlement is paid in full, the balance will be paid to a designated beneficiary.
In cases where annuity payments are paid for life, they are referred to as Life Annuity structured settlements. It's important to note that "life" may actually refer to a certain number of years based on the Annuitant's life expectancy. Also known as "Period Certain", this type of structured settlement allows the Annuitant to name a beneficiary. If the recipient dies prior to the number of designated years, the beneficiary will receive the remaining payments.
Lump Sum structured settlements provide a lump sum payment at a future date. This type of arrangement is well-suited for minor children, as it can provide for future educational expenses. Two types of lump sum are available -- "Lump Sum" and "Life Contingent Lump Sum." The first allows transfer of the annuity to a designated beneficiary, while the second does not.
Life Annuities structured settlements pay monthly annuities for life. There are two types of life annuities -- "Life Only" and "Joint Survivor." The first offers no provision for assigning a beneficiary, while the second will pay the beneficiary for the remainder of their life.
Last, but least, is Temporary Life Annuity structured settlement which pays regular payments for a specific number of years. There is no beneficiary provision and the annuity ends when the recipient dies.