Is It Time To Sell Your Structured Settlement Payments?

Structured settlements are financial agreements allowing compensation to be paid through an annuity in regularly scheduled payments, for either a fixed period of time or for the life of the claimant. Since it is suitable for individual plaintiffs, the structured settlement may also include an up front payment to cover any contingency.

Structured settlement payments are normally funded by annuities. These annuities are established to protect recipients of legal awards, insurance settlements, and lottery winnings. A great percentage of structured settlements are prearranged to provide for long term care and living expenses of plaintiffs who have been injured and are unable to work.

Structured settlements have not always been accessible. The Periodic Payment Settlement Act of 1982 was enacted to make large awards more agreeable to all parties and protect claimants. It also affords the insurance company and the plaintiff certain tax advantages.

Some situations are well suited for a structured settlement. For example: Cases that involve catastrophic injuries Wrongful death lawsuits that include replacing the lost income of the deceased Disabilities, either permanent or those requiring extensive recovery time Workers Compensation cases Gambling and lottery winnings

Many people choose a structured settlement over a lump sum payment, and courts often award them in civil actions where there are long term living and health care expenses. The anticipated need of cash at some future date is taken into account when setting up a structured settlement agreement.

Structured settlements can be established in a number of ways, according to the needs of the damaged party. The most basic structured settlements provide regular periodic payments for the life of the agreement; for example, a fixed payment every month for 10 years. Structured settlements do not pay interest, so anticipated gains in the underlying annuity are factored into the amount of the periodic payments and are non-taxable.

Claimants choose structured settlement agreements over lump sum awards for a number of reasons. The idea of guaranteed regular payments offers a feeling of security for many people who have been injured and are unable to earn a steady income. Instead of having to worry about how to invest a large cash award, the details are handled by the attorneys and the insurance company.

An important benefit of a structured settlement agreement is that it is tax free. The tax consequences of receiving a lump sum of cash can be staggering, turning what seemed like a fortune into an amount that may not meet future living expenses. A structured settlement relieves the claimant of the responsibility of planning a tax shelter for their award.

Because of the many benefits structured settlements offer both plaintiffs and defendants, the case can often be settled out of court, saving both parties a great deal of expense. Since the agreement is beneficial to both parties, the process is usually completed quickly, and there is no time lost to a prolonged battle in court.

There are some cases for which structured settlements are not suitable. An award for a minor injury sustained in an accident would probably not warrant the use of a structured settlement. In situations where extended hospitalization or long term treatment is not necessary, a lump sum award may be sufficient to provide for the needs of the damaged party.

Once a structured settlement agreement is enacted, the terms are fixed, and there is no allowance made for unanticipated circumstances. This is one reason many people choose to sell their structured settlement payments. Life situations change, and people may decide to buy a different home, start a business, or return to school and train for a new career. A lump sum of cash offers greater flexibility and more control over the money than a structured settlement.

Perhaps the most persuasive argument for selling structured settlement payments is that over time, inflation can severely erode the value of the periodic payments. A dollar today is worth more than the same dollar in the future. A lump sum of cash properly invested today could surpass the future value of a structured settlement.

When selling your structured settlement payments, you can choose to cash in only a portion of your future payments. This option offers immediate cash, while preserving some of the long term security of a structured settlement. If you decide to cash in a structured settlement, sell only the portion of your future payments necessary to meet your financial need.

Finally, you should carefully choose a structured settlement buyer that has been in business for at least several years. Check out potential buyers with the Better Business Bureau, and do some research to determine if past customers have been pleased with the company’s services. Doing the research now will insure that you get the most cash for your structured settlement.

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Is It Time To Sell Your Structured Settlement Payments?

Structured settlements are financial agreements allowing compensation to be paid through an annuity in regularly scheduled payments, for either a fixed period of time or for the life of the claimant. Since it is suitable for individual plaintiffs, the structured settlement may also include an up front payment to cover any contingency.

Structured settlement payments are normally funded by annuities. These annuities are established to protect recipients of legal awards, insurance settlements, and lottery winnings. A great percentage of structured settlements are prearranged to provide for long term care and living expenses of plaintiffs who have been injured and are unable to work.

Structured settlements have not always been accessible. The Periodic Payment Settlement Act of 1982 was enacted to make large awards more agreeable to all parties and protect claimants. It also affords the insurance company and the plaintiff certain tax advantages.

Some situations are well suited for a structured settlement. For example: Cases that involve catastrophic injuries Wrongful death lawsuits that include replacing the lost income of the deceased Disabilities, either permanent or those requiring extensive recovery time Workers Compensation cases Gambling and lottery winnings

Many people choose a structured settlement over a lump sum payment, and courts often award them in civil actions where there are long term living and health care expenses. The anticipated need of cash at some future date is taken into account when setting up a structured settlement agreement.

Structured settlements can be established in a number of ways, according to the needs of the damaged party. The most basic structured settlements provide regular periodic payments for the life of the agreement; for example, a fixed payment every month for 10 years. Structured settlements do not pay interest, so anticipated gains in the underlying annuity are factored into the amount of the periodic payments and are non-taxable.

Claimants choose structured settlement agreements over lump sum awards for a number of reasons. The idea of guaranteed regular payments offers a feeling of security for many people who have been injured and are unable to earn a steady income. Instead of having to worry about how to invest a large cash award, the details are handled by the attorneys and the insurance company.

An important benefit of a structured settlement agreement is that it is tax free. The tax consequences of receiving a lump sum of cash can be staggering, turning what seemed like a fortune into an amount that may not meet future living expenses. A structured settlement relieves the claimant of the responsibility of planning a tax shelter for their award.

Because of the many benefits structured settlements offer both plaintiffs and defendants, the case can often be settled out of court, saving both parties a great deal of expense. Since the agreement is beneficial to both parties, the process is usually completed quickly, and there is no time lost to a prolonged battle in court.

There are some cases for which structured settlements are not suitable. An award for a minor injury sustained in an accident would probably not warrant the use of a structured settlement. In situations where extended hospitalization or long term treatment is not necessary, a lump sum award may be sufficient to provide for the needs of the damaged party.

Once a structured settlement agreement is enacted, the terms are fixed, and there is no allowance made for unanticipated circumstances. This is one reason many people choose to sell their structured settlement payments. Life situations change, and people may decide to buy a different home, start a business, or return to school and train for a new career. A lump sum of cash offers greater flexibility and more control over the money than a structured settlement.

Perhaps the most persuasive argument for selling structured settlement payments is that over time, inflation can severely erode the value of the periodic payments. A dollar today is worth more than the same dollar in the future. A lump sum of cash properly invested today could surpass the future value of a structured settlement.

When selling your structured settlement payments, you can choose to cash in only a portion of your future payments. This option offers immediate cash, while preserving some of the long term security of a structured settlement. If you decide to cash in a structured settlement, sell only the portion of your future payments necessary to meet your financial need.

Finally, you should carefully choose a structured settlement buyer that has been in business for at least several years. Check out potential buyers with the Better Business Bureau, and do some research to determine if past customers have been pleased with the company’s services. Doing the research now will insure that you get the most cash for your structured settlement.

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Financial Security through Structured Settlements

Structured settlements have become a natural part of personal injury and worker’s compensation claims in the United States, according to the National Structured Settlements Trade Association (NSSTA). In 2001, life insurance members of NSSTA wrote more than $6.05 billion of issued annuities as settlement for physical injury claims. This represents a 19 percent increase over 2000.

A structured settlement is the dispersement of money for a legal claim where all or part of the arrangement calls for future periodic payments. The money is paid in regular installments–annually, semi-annually or quarterly–either for a fixed period or for the lifetime of the claimant. Depending on the needs of the individual involved, the structure may also include some immediate payment to cover special damages. The payment is usually made through the purchase of an annuity from a Life Insurance Company.

A structured settlement structure can provide long-term financial security to injury victims and their families through a stream of tax-free payments tailored to their needs. Historically, they were first utilized in Canada and the United States during the 1970s as an alternative to lump-sum payments for injured parties. A structured settlement can also be used in situations involving lottery winnings and other substantial funds.

How a Structured Settlement Works
When a plaintiff settles a case for a large sum of money, the defendant, the plaintiff’s attorney, or a financial planner may propose paying the settlement in installments over time rather than in a single lump sum.

A structured settlement is actually a tradeoff. The individuals who were injured and/or their parents or guardians work with their lawyer and an outside broker to determine future medical and living needs. This includes all upcoming operations, therapy, medical devices and other health care needs. Then, an annuity is purchased and held by an independent third party that makes payments to the person who has been injured. Unlike stock dividends or bank interest, these structured settlement payments are completely tax-free. What’s more, the individual’s annuity grows tax-free.

Pros and Cons

As with anything, there’s a positive and negative side to structure settlements. One significant advantage is tax avoidance. When appropriately set up, a structured settlement may significantly reduce the plaintiff’s tax obligations (as a result of the settlement). Another benefit is that a structured settlement can help ensure a plaintiff has the funds to pay for future care or needs. In other words, a structured settlement can help protect a plaintiff from himself.

Let’s face it: Some people have a hard time managing money, or saying no to friends and family wanting to “share the wealth.” Receiving money in installment can make it last longer.

A downside to structure settlements is the built-in structure (no pun intended). Some people may feel restricted by periodic payments. For example, they may want to buy a new home or other expensive item, yet lack the funds to do so. They can’t borrow against future payments under their settlement, so they’re stuck until their next installment payment arrives.
And from an investment perspective, a structured settlement may not make the most sense for everyone. Many standard investments can provide a greater long-term return than the annuities used in structured settlements. So some people may be better off accepting a lump sum settlement and then investing it for themselves.

Here are some other important points to keep in mind about structured settlements: An injured person with long-term special needs may benefit from having periodic lump sums to purchase medical equipment. Minors may benefit from a structured settlement that provides for certain costs when they’re young–such as educational expenses–instead of during adulthood.

Special Considerations

- Injured parties should be wary of potential exploitation or hazards related to structured settlements. They should carefully consider:

- High Commissions – Annuities can be highly profitable for insurance companies, and they often carry very large commissions. It is important to ensure that the commissions charged in setting up a structured settlement don’t eat up too much of its principal.

- Inflated Value – Sometimes, the defense will overstate the value of a negotiated structured settlement. As a result, the plaintiff winds up with much less than was agreed upon. Plaintiffs should compare the fees and commissions charged for similar settlement packages by a variety of insurance companies to make sure that they’re getting full value.

- Conflict of Interest – There have been situations where the plaintiff’s attorney has referred the client to a particular financial planner to set up a structured settlement, without disclosing he would receive a referral fee. In other cases, the plaintiff’s lawyer has set up a structured settlement on behalf of a client without revealing the annuities are being purchased from his own insurance business. Plaintiffs should know what financial interest their lawyer may have in relation to any financial services being provided or recommended.

- Using Multiple Insurance Companies – It’s advisable to purchase annuities for a structured settlement from several different companies. This offers protection in the event a company that issued annuities for a settlement package goes into bankruptcy and defaults.

Benefits of Selling A Settlement

A structured settlement is specifically designed to meet the needs of the plaintiff at the time it’s created. But what happens if the installment arrangement no longer works for the individual? If you need cash for a large purchase or other expenses, consider selling your structured settlement. Many companies can purchase all or part of your remaining periodic settlement payments for one lump sum. This can boost your cash flow by providing funds you can use immediately to buy a home, pay college tuition, invest in a business or pay off debt.

If you’re considering cashing out your structured settlement, contact your attorney first. Depending on the state you live in, you may have to go to court to get approval for the buyout. About two thirds of states have laws that limit the sale of structured settlements, according to the NSSTA. Tax-free structured settlements are also subject to federal restrictions on their sale to a third party, and some insurance companies won’t assign or transfer annuities to third parties.

When selling your structure settlement, check with multiple companies to make sure that you get the highest payoff. Also, be sure the company buying your settlement is reputable and well-established. And keep in mind that if the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

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