Getting Court Approval for Structured Settlement Transfers

Unlike many financial transactions today, a structured settlement transfer can’t be completed online. It takes planning and patience, and should involve the help of a qualified attorney.

Legal Regulation of Structured Settlement Sale

In most cases, transferring a structured settlement involves large sums of money, and that’s one reason the law is designed to regulate such transfers. To sell your annuity, you will need to appear before a judge and the transaction will go forward only if he or she approves it.

While it may seem like an undue headache, the laws are in place to protect you as a recipient of the structured settlement. The Structured Settlement Protection Act of 2002 was enacted to protect those who receive court-ordered settlements and ensure they get the full financial benefit intended in their agreements.The law also created safeguards and made the transfer process more transparent.

There is also similar laws in place in 48 states, each with varying degrees of requirements regarding transfers.

Under all of the laws, however, judges who decide to approve or deny structured settlement transfers must do so under what’s called the “best interest standard.” The judge must be certain that the sale will benefit not only you, the settlement owner, but also any affected family members or dependents.

When you appear in court, the judge is going to ask questions regarding the impending sale. Some of the most basic questions could include:

  • Have you shopped around and vetted the company you’re selling to?
  • Are you aware that you’re getting less money by selling now than you would be getting if you waited for the installment payments?
  • Do you fully understand the transfer agreement?
  • Has the agreement been reviewed by an attorney or other professional who is not working for the company you’re selling to?

The judge may also want to know if you’re having any current medical issues and how you’re paying for your care today and in the future, or if there is anyone who might oppose the sale.

You should be prepared for these questions and you should have an attorney with you to help make sure you’re ready and able to leave the judge satisfied that the transfer is indeed in your best interest.

Required Documents

As with any legal proceeding, selling a structured settlement is going to involve paperwork.While there won’t be an overwhelming amount of documents required, the paperwork is a crucial part of the overall presentation and therefore needs to be complete and accurate.

It’s probably a good idea to start thinking about the paperwork almost as soon as you make up your mind to transfer your structured settlement. This will avoid any surprises or delays down the road.Your attorney should be able to help with compiling these, as well as providing insight into any additional details regarding court-mandated paperwork.

Some of the documents you will need to get your structured settlement transfer in court include:

  • Identification – You’ll need a least one form of state-issued ID with your picture on it. A driver’s license works for most people, but state-issued ID cards are also accepted for those who don’t hold a driver’s license. You will also need a second form of ID such as a birth certificate, Social Security card or passport.
  • Settlement and Release Agreement – This is the document that you should have received when you accepted your structured settlement. Usually between three and 10 pages long, it sets out the terms of your agreement and proves that the case that led to the structured settlement has indeed been settled.
  • Sale Documents – This shows that you have an agreement with a company to sell your structured settlement and spells out the terms. The company you’ve contracted with to buy your settlement should provide it to you.
  • Annuity Policy – This is another two- to three-page document you received when you reached your settlement. It spells out the details of the annuity the insurance company issued to you, lists your full payment schedule and includes the policy number. If for some reason the policy has been lost or misplaced, you’ll need to send a written request to the insurance company asking them for a benefits letter. This is typically a single-page document that includes all the information the court will need from the annuity policy that was created for your structured settlement payments.

While not required, it’s also usually a good idea to bring a record of your most recent annuity payments. This can sometimes substitute for other documents, and will ensure you have everything you need for a court appearance.

Hiring an Attorney for a Structured Settlement Sale

Selling a structured settlement is a legal procedure, which means having a lawyer by your side is always a good idea. Some states mandate that you bring in your own attorney, while others insist you sign a waiver if you choose not to.

Most companies that buy settlements will provide you with an attorney who is experienced at navigating the structured settlement sale process. This is acceptable to judges in most states, but you also may want to consider hiring your own legal advocate.

If you go this route, you’ll want to work with an attorney who understands the complexities of the transfer process, has experience in your state or local area and is someone you trust so you know they have your best interest in mind.

Among the benefits of using your own local attorney is that he or she will likely know the judge handling your sale and be able to offer valuable insight into to what that judge wants to see or hear when you go to court.

Every judge has a different way of handling sales and a different approach to their role in the process.

Using a lawyer who knows what’s important to the person sitting on the bench can help you save time in preparation and be ready to answer the type of questions you’ll be asked during the court proceeding.

It’s also critical to have someone on board who thoroughly understands the state laws pertaining to structured settlement sales. Although they don’t vary widely from state to state, there are some nuances that only someone with experience will understand. For example, in Georgia sellers have 21 days to back out of their contracts, and in Louisiana, written disclosure of the agreement terms must be in a font that’s bigger than 14 points.

Having a lawyer in your corner can also ensure that your contract with any sales company is fair to you and doesn’t include any surprises in the fine print.

With the guidance of an attorney, and your own attention to the proper preparation, you should be able to get any judge to sign off on your sale, which is the ultimate goal.

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