The principal amount invested in an annuity contract earns interest until the owner cashes out the policy or dies. As the beneficiary, you are entitled to receive all or part of the balance that remains in the decedent’s annuity account. The annuity company holds the funds until you contact them to report the annuity owner’s death. You can claim your share of the annuity benefits by filing the required forms and documents with the company. Although the procedures may differ slightly, all annuity companies process beneficiary claims in basically the same way.
You must report the annuity owner’s death to the company that issued the annuity. The annuity contract usually has the company name, address, phone number and agent’s name on the front page or on a cover letter. Due to privacy concerns, you may have to fax a copy of the death certificate or mail in the original certified death certificate to the company before an agent can disclose information about the annuity. You also need the annuity owner’s full legal name, Social Security number, date of death, annuity contract number and the names of any other beneficiaries.
Fill Out Forms
The annuity company will supply you with the forms you need to make a claim. You will receive a letter with specific information about the annuity contract, along with the claim forms you must complete. If there are other beneficiaries besides you, they must file their own claim with the company. If you cannot find the original annuity contract, you will have to submit a form confirming that the contract could not be located.
Select a Payment Option
The full value of the annuity is the amount of money the decedent paid for the contract, plus the accumulated interest, minus any withdrawals the decedent made. Most annuity companies let you choose between accepting a lump-sum payout or a structured settlement. If you choose the lump-sum option, the company pays you the full amount in one payment. With a structured settlement, you receive a fixed amount of money paid out over a set number of years. For example, if the annuity balance is $100,000, you can structure your settlement to receive $25,000 over four years.
Submit the Documents
Most annuity companies require more than just the completed forms to process your claim. You must provide a certified copy of the decedent’s death certificate with the cause-of-death information on it. The company may require that your signature be notarized before it will accept the claim form. You may want to use a tracking service, such as certified mail, to ensure the documents reach the company. You can receive your payment by paper check, electronic bank transfer or wire transfer. You should receive your money within four to six weeks after the company receives and processes your claim.
Based in St. Petersburg, Fla., Karen Rogers covers the financial markets for several online publications. She received a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of South Florida.