A structured settlement is a type of annuity that pays out an award from a civil lawsuit by spreading the payments out over a long period of time. A structured settlement many times offers a better future guarantee of money than a lump-sum payout.
Structured settlements are simple. Many lawsuits result in someone or some company paying money to another to right a wrong. Those responsible for the wrong may agree to the settlement on their own, or they may be forced to pay the money when they lose the case in court.
A structured settlement is a stream of payments to a person who won or settled a lawsuit. The defendant funds the settlement. These resolutions differ from lump-sum settlements because of the way the money is paid over time.
If the amount of money is small enough, the wronged party may have the option to receive a lump sum settlement. For larger sums, however, a structured settlement annuity may be arranged.
In this case, the at-fault party puts the money toward an annuity, which is a financial product that guarantees regular payments over time from an insurance company.
The agreement details the series of payments the person who was wronged will receive as compensation for the harm done to them. Spreading the money over a longer period of time offers a better future guarantee of financial security because a single payout can be spent quickly.
Structured settlements gained popularity in the 1980s after the U.S. Congress passed the Periodic Payment Settlement Act. According to the National Structured Settlements Trade Association, almost $6 billion in new structured settlements are issued annually.
Frequently Asked Questions: Get straightforward answers to common questions about a structured settlement annuity.
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A structured settlement pays out money owed from a legal settlement through periodic payments in the form of a financial product known as an annuity. However, many legal settlements offer a lump-sum payment option, which provides a one-time sum of money. The key differences between both annuity settlement options are the long-term security and the taxes. For example, money received from a personal injury case is almost always tax free when you receive it. However, once the money is yours, you’re liable for taxes and dividends from the lump sum.
There are a number of reasons why an individual may receive a structured settlement. The most common cases are:
Structured settlements — or structured annuities — are both financial products and legal judgments. While they function somewhat like private assets, they are also subject to complex regulations. Learn about the process of being awarded a structured settlement annuity as well as the legal protections and advantages on the following pages:
If you elect to receive your lawsuit payout through a structured settlement, you can determine whether to begin to receive the funds immediately or at a later date. Immediate payments can be beneficial if you require medical care, for example, or have lost your source of income. You may decide to postpone the payments until a later time, such as after you retire. During the waiting period, the annuity will grow as it earns interest.
You can also determine whether the annuity should be paid for the rest of your life, no matter how long that may be, or for a specified number of years.
You can also determine when you set up the annuity the schedule for receiving payments and whether the payments should go up or down over time.
Structured annuities are ideally suited for many different types of cases. For additional information on how work, payout options, or how to access your cash ahead of the annuity contract schedule, the Structured Settlements FAQs page can be a beneficial resource.
These scheduled payments offer a number of advantages. When deciding on any financial investment, it is important to understand the benefits along with the risks.
You should carefully consider the terms of your annuity because they can’t be renegotiated after the contract has been issued. That can limit your options if your financial situation changes due unemployment, illnesses or other setbacks.
However, annuity owners may have the option to get cash in advance of their contract schedules. Owners may sell some or all payments to structured settlement buyers. Such sales must be approved by a judge. The role of the judge is to decide if the sale is in the best interest of the annuity owner.
Other rules may apply depending on the details of your annuity contract and the laws of the state where you live. The Structured Settlement Protection Act of 2002 provides federal guidelines on such transactions.
Annuity owners should carefully consider their options before selling payments. You can learn more at Selling Structured Settlement Payments.