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Definition of a structured settlement and how to get cash for a structured settlement

Saturday, 7 January 2012

So what is exactly is a cash structured settlement? To put it in lamens terms a cash structured settlement occurs when there is an insurance company that gives you scheduled payments as a result of a claim. In other words, a structured settlement is a monetary package of payments that allows the company to pay off a settlement through scheduled installment payments over a given period of time.

Structured settlements first started in the early seventies in Canada, then they spread rapidly into the United States. Several years later, the structured settlement method found its way to Australia as well as Europe.

A benefit of structured settlements is that it provides a tax free recurring payment over a given period of time. These payments can be spread out through the live of the recipient. If the recipient ends up dieing, a guaranteed portion of the settlement be paid to a beneficiary.

An alternative to a structured settlements package is a lump sum payment. This means that a one time amount can be made to the recipient instead of breaking the amount down into multiple payments over a given period of time. This often happens when a person wins the lottery. One reason that a lump sum payment is of interest to individuals is that they may have a large expense that they wish to pay off. For example the recipient may have, a home loan or mortgage, medical expenses, credit card debt, etc. When the recipient recieves a lump sum payment, many debt issues can be resolved as a result of the large payment.

Although lump sum payments seem appealing to some, structured settlements provide a continuous recurring income over a designated period of time. So if you are in need of money a lump sum payment may be for you.


How a structured settlement annuity works ?

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Structured Settlement Annuity:
A Structured Settlement is essentially an agreement under which an insurance company agrees to pay an individual a predetermined amount of cash for a fixed length of time if the individual meets an accident. The documents generated in a structured settlement include an agreement, a qualified assignment, an annuity application, a court order if a claim is made by a minor, and an annuity policy.

Payments for a structured settlement annuity can be made for the duration of the life of the claimant. The amount paid can comprise of equal installments, installments of varying amounts, and lump sums. The payments from a Structured Settlement Annuity are free from income-tax and are guaranteed by contract. Since a structured settlement annuity is meant for long-term financial security, it is important to get an assurance of the credentials of the annuity provider. 

The periodicity of payment is entered into the settlement agreement. Factors that individuals can consider in deciding upon the date of commencement of payment, duration, and periodicity include monthly expenses, present age, extent of hazard in occupation, and retirement plans. In order to ensure that the payments remain tax-free, the structure of payments should not be altered once it has been agreed upon by both parties. In the case of a qualified assignment, the insurance company making the payment can transfer its obligation for payments to a third party.

There are issues that one should understand before opting for a structured settlement agreement. If payments are made to an estate, they are free from income tax but subject to estate tax. Purchasing a structured annuity can affect the availability of ready money with an individual.

State and federal laws govern the closing of a structured settlement. The closing process usually gets completed in 3-6 months. Federal laws stipulate that a court order be obtained by either the customer or the funding company that is purchasing the payment stream so that there are no tax liabilities. The manner in which the court order is obtained is regulated by various “Structured Settlement Protection Acts”, which are in force in 36 states in the United States.

A disclosure statement is made available to a customer 3 to 14 days before he receives the transfer agreement. The disclosure statement mentions the amounts to be paid to the customer and their due dates; the IRS Discounted Present Value of the amount at that given point in time; the Gross Advance Amount and the Annual Discount Rate; disclosures desired by the state; and a list of the fees and commissions incurred.

It is advisable to avail attorney advice before going in for a. In fact, in some states, it is a precondition to acquiring a structured settlement annuity. However, depending upon the laws being used for the transaction, customers do have the option of waiving legal representation in the Transfer Agreement or obtain an Estoppel letter from their attorney.

The funding company commences payment to an individual after acknowledging the assignment and receiving a court order. The payments start 30-45 days after the receipt of the court order.

Why a structured settlement payment is a popular choice?

Structured settlements offer several advantages that make them a popular choice with individuals. The foremost benefit of a structured settlement is that it provides cash at regular intervals and the money is free of state as well as federal taxes. As against this, the interest accrued from investments made from money obtained through a lump sum is subject to federal and state tax. Also, very often individuals who come into money by acquiring a lump sum are unable to invest it wisely and often spend it wastefully, this is not possible with a structured settlement where small amounts are made available periodically and therefore a person’s spending is regulated.

Loss of money that has been acquired through an installment of a structured settlement is not as severe as loss of money acquired through a lump sum payment. The small amounts are easy to manage and also do not excite the interest of unscrupulous elements as compared to hefty lump sum payments. 

With a structured settlement, an individual does not need to worry about planning for long-term investments as the periodic payments can be structured to take adequate care of one’s needs post retirement or in the case of a debilitating injury. Structured settlements are favored by both the defendant and the plaintiff as they can be settled without having to go to court. This saves time and is often cheaper for the defendant who would otherwise have to pay more with an in-court settlement. The risks involved for both parties are reduced with a structured settlement as per which the defendant is contractually bound to pay the plaintiff. Also, attorney costs for a out-of-court negotiated structured settlement are lower than what they would be if a litigation were to be filed in court. Attorney fees can come down by as much as 8% to 10% for a structured settlement achieved out of court. This can mean a saving of thousands of dollars for the defendant as structured settlements can often run into more than a million dollars. 

Structured settlements allow insurance companies to provide payment to claimants at a lower cost and the payment schedule can be set according to a claimant’s convenience. A structured settlement can be used to provide for certain costs of an individual right from the stage when he is a minor. The money can be disbursed for college expenses or to meet the costs of higher education. Periodic lump sums made available to an injured person can be used to make medicinal purchases and sustain oneself. 

One reason for the popularity of structured settlements is that they can be availed in a variety of formats; these include lump sum payments made periodically when funds are required for medical expenses, education, or marriage; percentage increase annuities that offer annually increasing payments that help to counter inflation; deferred annuities that enable to defer the commencement of payment to a later date; period certain annuities that can be combined with a lump sum payment for receiving payment over a fixed period; and joint and survivor annuities in which payments are continued to the survivor annuitant if the primary annuitant passes away.

The skinny on getting cash for a structured settlement payment

Very often, individuals who receive a structured settlement do not wish to wait for years to obtain the cash and would rather have it all in one go. Settlement purchasing companies help people to get cash instantly; the cash can be obtained at any stage of the execution of the structured settlement. A person who receives the lump sum is free to use it any way he desires – for education, home, or car.

It is not uncommon for a recipient of a structured settlement to run into a financial difficulty or come across an investment opportunity that promises better returns than a structured settlement. At such times, individuals consider getting cash for their structured settlement and use the money to build their own portfolio of investments. An advantage of getting lump sum cash is that it acts as a hedge against inflation. 

Companies that purchase annuities do so at a discounted rate, at the very minimum, the discount is equal to the existing bank rates. Sometimes, purchasers may require a higher discount in order to cover the risk involved and make a profit. One should ideally take the help of a financial advisor who can professionally assess an individual’s income, assets, and monetary obligations. This helps to put into perspective future security as assured by a structured settlement against a lump sum payment.

Companies that purchase structured settlements offer to do so in a number of ways so that an individual can sell different amounts of an annuity. The flexible plans can be tailored according to an individual’s requirements; this allows one to enjoy both a lump sum at hand for immediate needs and regular payments from the annuity. The course of action to be taken while selling a structured settlement depends upon the immediate needs that could include paying off debts, child’s college fees, debt consolidation, or a business venture. Cash for structured settlements can be obtained as a full payment, partial payment, or a shared payment. 

A full payment involves receipt of a lump sum for the entire annuity. It is an option when high debts have to be repaid. While selling an annuity that is due well into the future, one should be careful because they do not result in as much money as those annuities that are due sooner. This is because the value of money depreciates due to inflation.

Partial payments can be useful if a limited amount of money is required for consolidating debts or repaying a loan. A given number of payments can be sold off for a lump sum in a partial payment. With a shared payment, one can sell of a portion of a lump sum that is due in a short time. A shared payment enables one to pay off expenses that are going to be incurred in the near future; these may include education fees or the cost of a new vehicle.

Individuals who intend to obtain cash for their structured settlements should obtain the necessary court approvals for the purpose. One should ensure that the transaction complies with state and federal restrictions. Before deciding upon a buyer, one should research a few companies and look out for the best deal possible. It is also important to check the credentials of a prospective purchaser.

How to sell a structured settlement payment ?

Individuals who choose to sell their structured settlement either in part or wholly are in need of some ready money. Most often, people sell a part of their structured settlement to meet near-term requirements. There are various institutions that buy structured settlements. The transactions can vary in amount from ten thousand dollars to 1.5 million dollars. More than two-thirds of the states in the United States allow individuals to sell structured settlements. According to the federal law HR 2884, annuity owners do not come under any tax obligations as a result of selling their structured settlements.

One should research about various settlement purchasers, check their past payment records and their working relationships with the insurance companies so that the transactions can be approved quickly. Also, the purchasers should be licensed, insured, and bonded. This way if a purchaser goes out of business, the seller can still get his cash. In some states it is mandatory to obtain financial and tax advice, in other states an annuity seller needs to sign a waiver if he does not want to take recourse to financial advice. However, it is compulsory to take advance approval from court according to federal and state laws. Companies that purchase a settlement payout without the advance court approval face a heavy tax. 

A judge studies the circumstance of the potential transactions to assess whether the seller actually stands to benefit from the transaction and weighs the effect of the transaction upon the seller’s dependents. Often, owners of structured settlement payments cannot raise credit by other means and have to sell off parts of their settlements. The judges are aware of this and do not object to the transactions so long as the owner is able to show a genuine need for the sale. The seller’s presence in court makes it easier for the judge to arrive at a decision. In an instance where a transaction is denied by a judge, purchasing companies take the necessary steps to create the conditions suitable for the transaction, a seller does not have to bear the costs of this process.

To obtain a free quote from a purchaser, one needs to provide information such as the state of residence, the insurance company, and the payments. If an individual is satisfied with the quote offered, he will need to submit copies of the settlement agreement and annuity policy.

The process of finalizing the contract starts with the purchasing firm sending a disclosure document to the seller; the document explains the terms and conditions that will govern the transaction. The contact is dispatched in a day or two, upon the contract being signed; the court order process begins and can take up to 90 days depending upon the state of residence and the insurance firm. Funds are made available to the individual within five to ten working days of the order being approved.

Why does a company want to buy my structured settlement?

Structured settlement companies that buy a structured settlement do so at a profit. The amount of lump sum received by an individual selling either a part or the complete settlement is not the same as the value of the structured settlements sold.

The money they earn is invested by these companies as per the best option available in their investment portfolios at that point in time. The profits are used to run the company, pay employees, and advertise. A financially healthy structured settlement company is a safer option for an individual as there is less chance of the company going bankrupt. Also, the market standing of such a company would allow it to offer the best rates to their clients, use their own money to pay the clients without having to take loans from a bank or take the services of a middleman. If they do take the services of a broker or a middleman, they will have to factor in the broker’s charges which are ultimately paid by the structured settlement owner. 

Companies are attracted toward structured settlements because it guarantees a safe cash flow and the transaction is not taxable. There are always individuals in need of quick cash who would like to swap their structured settlements for some quick cash. The work involved in purchasing a structured settlement is not much, the main effort lies in marketing and obtaining court approval in compliance with the prevalent state and federal laws.

The fact that structured settlements are guaranteed means that structured settlement companies can obtain debt at low interest rates and finance other ventures with that debt. For example, if a structured settlement company pays a lump sum of $200, 000, a pre-tax rate of return of 10% for a 20-year period would get $23,492 every year. 

Do I really need a structured settlement company?

Structured settlements are offered by individuals or companies when they wish for an out-of-court settlement for an issue. Structured settlement companies offer their services for managing the payouts for an individual. The payouts can be of substantial amount and can last for several years.

Structured settlement companies can help individuals by helping the processing of settlement claims in an efficient manner. Structured settlement companies focus on reducing litigation costs thereby saving the defendant valuable money that can be used to pay the beneficiary. An individual who gets a structured settlement payment also stands to benefit by taking the service of a structured settlement company if he wishes to convert his structured settlement payments into ready cash. Structured settlement companies have contacts with investors who pay a person for his cash flow.

A person who wishes to transfer his payments to another person can do so with the help of a structured settlement company. The terms of a settlement are governed by state and federal laws and need to be understood properly before a settlement can be executed. Creating a Structured Settlement Agreement and obtaining a court approval for a structured settlement transaction are some of the activities that the settlement companies manage. Their good working relationships with insurance companies and their knowledge of laws that govern settlements mean that the beneficiary of a structured settlement gets through the procedures smoothly.

With the presence of a structured settlement company as a third party between a defendant and a beneficiary, the beneficiary can avail the settlement sum in a variety of ways depending upon his present financial conditions and lifestyle. Settlements can also be offered through an equity annuity which enables the beneficiary to invest the money obtained and earn either through a guaranteed minimum or according to the stock market. Thus, settlement companies that offer an equity annuity give people a chance to reap payoffs on the principal and at the same time watch it grow.

An individual involved in litigation needs help in filing a claim, managing documents, and assessing present and future damages. Along with a competent lawyer, he is helped in this by a structured settlement company that can gauge an individual’s future requirements and advise upon a settlement amount as well as the periodicity of payment. Their services are all the more useful in cases that involve catastrophic accidents that can lead to a loss of earning capability and in some cases reduced life expectancy. The companies use their expertise to draft a payment proposal that raises the issue of the plaintiff’s requirements and the defendant’s responsibility to the plaintiff’s needs.

An individual who receives a large cash award, whether from an out-of-court settlement, a lottery ticket, or a sweepstake award stands to benefit immensely by taking the services of a structured settlement company that can help him manage his finance better.

Which structured settlement broker is right for me?

 As you know that,in the case of a structured settlement, neither the beneficiary nor the defendant has a clear idea of the costs involved in the settlement. A structured settlement broker can help the parties involved to get a fair assessment of the costs based on calculations and projections. A broker provides information that acts as a platform for conducting negotiations.

The right structured settlement broker will execute several responsibilities such as a financial analysis for the plaintiff, derive the present value cost based on that analysis, interact with Medicaid and SSI if required, mediate during negotiations, and offer tax-planning advice to the plaintiff. A broker works with the plaintiff or his attorney and negotiates a suitable agreement. Alternately, the broker can be the middleman when an individual decides to sell a structured settlement. 

Ideally, a broker should help an attorney in the negotiation process and provide financial inputs relevant to the fiduciary position that they enjoy. This helps the attorney to create a scenario that takes into consideration things such as medical expenses, present income, loss of wages, and debt. The broker is involved during the negotiation and in the post-negotiation process. It is not often that attorneys are experts in structured settlements and they have to take recourse to the services of a broker. Their combined knowledge is critical for building a powerful case for the plaintiff.

A structured settlement broker provides various payment options and explains the salient features of each to the plaintiff. With inputs from the broker and the attorney, a person can take a call on the most suitable payment structure for him. The services of a knowledgeable structured settlement broker are in demand because of the nature of a structured settlement; it cannot be renegotiated.

One should research structured settlement brokers before availing the services of any of them. Ideally, the broker should be registered with the Department of Justice, have a registration in at least one state in America and at the minimum with one insurance company. The broker should be insured against errors and omissions. A broker who fulfills the above criteria is going to be one with the required experience and a clean track record so that the individual can trust him with sensitive information. One should also shop around a little and look out for brokers who can do the job at low commission rates.

While selling a structured settlement, it is important to ensure that a broker does not have any kind of exclusive arrangement with a buyer as this may lead to a poor deal for a seller. Brokers normally have access to several buyers and can obtain quotes from them on the seller’s behalf. This helps the seller to get the best deal possible for his structured settlement. The brokers can arrange for the sale of a structured settlement in a manner convenient to the seller; one can make a part sale of the settlement or opt for a lump sum in exchange for the entire structured settlement.


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