Kim Borwick, Financial Editor for
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    Kim Borwick

    Kim Borwick

    Financial Editor

    Kim Borwick is a writer and editor who studies financial literacy and retirement annuities. She has extensive experience with editing educational content and financial topics for

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    Emily Miller

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  • Updated: May 22, 2023
  • 5 min read time
  • This page features 3 Cited Research Articles
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How to Cite's Article

APA Borwick, K. (2023, May 22). Joint and Survivor Annuity. Retrieved June 8, 2023, from

MLA Borwick, Kim. "Joint and Survivor Annuity.", 22 May 2023,

Chicago Borwick, Kim. "Joint and Survivor Annuity." Last modified May 22, 2023.

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Key Takeaways

  • A joint and survivor annuity is an annuity that provides payouts for the remainder of two people’s lives.
  • This is distinct from a jointly owned annuity, which triggers a death benefit when one owner dies.
  • The chief benefit of a joint and survivor annuity is that it guarantees payments to last for the rest of the annuity owner’s life and for the life of the other person as well.
  • This type of annuity is popular with married couples.

When we talk about annuities as flexible retirement savings tools, we may be referring to customizable payout schedules, an array of riders to ensure optimal benefits and performance, premium payment options, and a range of other versatile features.

Joint and survivor annuities offer flexibility in terms of payout.

What Is a Joint and Survivor Annuity?

A joint and survivor annuity is an annuity that pays out for the remainder of two people’s lives.

Depending on the contract, the annuity may pay 100 percent of the payments upon the death of the first annuitant or a lower percentage — typically 50 or 75 percent.

A 50 percent joint and survivor annuity will pay the surviving annuitant half the payment amount that payees were receiving when both annuitants were alive. And a 75 percent joint and survivor annuity will pay three-quarters of that amount to the surviving annuitant.

The higher the percentage the surviving annuitant is guaranteed, the lower the initial payments will be. Payment amounts are guaranteed regardless of which person dies first.

Joint and survivor annuity infographic

Joint and Survivor Annuity vs. Jointly Owned Annuity

A joint and survivor annuity is not the same thing as a jointly owned annuity, which is an annuity contract that includes two owners. When two people own an annuity with a death benefit, the death benefit will be triggered upon the death of one of the owners. This can be problematic if the owners intended the payments to the surviving annuitant to continue.

For this reason, it’s important to make the distinction between a joint and survivor annuity and a jointly owned annuity.


The primary benefit of owning a joint and survivor annuity is the guarantee that payments will last for the rest of the annuity owner’s life and the life of another person.

Because the second person is an annuitant, as opposed to a beneficiary, the timeframe for the payment will most likely be longer, and therefore the tax liabilities will be spread over a longer period of time.

Joint and survivor annuities can give married retirees peace of mind, knowing that their spouse will have reliable income when they are gone. For many, this assurance outweighs any drawbacks of this payout structure.

Tax Treatment of Joint and Survivor Annuities

After the death of the first annuitant, the surviving annuitant will remain on the initial payment schedule.

This tax treatment is advantageous in that there is no obligation to pay taxes on money that the second person would have received as the beneficiary of a single-life annuity. In addition, the surviving annuitant won’t have to worry about administrative actions and fees that typically accompany beneficiary payouts.


In addition to the lower payments, joint and survivor annuities restrict the surviving spouse’s ability to access a large sum of cash because, in contrast to the variety of payout options available to beneficiaries of single-life annuities, the only option with a joint and survivor annuity is to continue with the existing payment schedule.

Funeral and burial costs can be high, and without the ability to take a lump sum, the surviving spouse will need an alternative way to pay them.

When you crunch the numbers, you may find that a joint and survivor annuity just doesn’t make mathematical sense. An article in CBS News consulted a group of actuaries to learn about their strategies regarding joint and survivor annuities. According to these mathematicians and longevity experts, depending on your life expectancy and the life expectancy of your partner, you may stand to lose more money in the reduced payments than your partner stands to gain after your death.

In addition, if your partner has other sources of retirement income, you may conclude that the extended payments from a joint and survivor annuity aren’t necessary.

As with all financial decisions, if you’re not sure which payout option best suits you and your personal circumstances, consult a professional. Financial advisors help people make these determinations all the time. Your financial security is worth the investment.

Joint and Survivor Annuity FAQs

What is the difference between a jointly owned annuity and a joint and survivor annuity?

With a jointly owned annuity, the payments stop when one of the joint owners dies. At that point, the annuity pays a death benefit. With a joint and survivor annuity, payments continue to the survivor on the contracted schedule after the first person dies.

Who does a joint and survivor annuity cover?

Beneficiaries of a joint and survivor annuity could include the annuity owner and their surviving spouse, former spouse or another person designated by the purchaser.

Who pays the taxes on a joint and survivor annuity?

The money earned on a joint and survivor annuity grows tax-deferred, meaning you don’t pay taxes until you make withdrawals. Once payments begin, the owner or survivor is responsible for applicable income taxes on those annuity payouts.


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Last Modified: May 22, 2023

3 Cited Research Articles writers adhere to strict sourcing guidelines and use only credible sources of information, including authoritative financial publications, academic organizations, peer-reviewed journals, highly regarded nonprofit organizations, government reports, court records and interviews with qualified experts. You can read more about our commitment to accuracy, fairness and transparency in our editorial guidelines.

  1. Consumer Reports. (2014, March). Your best pension payout options. Retrieved from
  2. Internal Revenue Service. (2022, August 30). Retirement Topics - Qualified Joint and Survivor Annuity. Retrieved from
  3. Vernon, S. (2016, June 1). Figuring your spouse into a key annuity equation. Retrieved from