For centuries annuities have been the vehicle of choice for people who are looking for a way to secure their capital and provide a stable, long term income for their retirement. They have come a long way in terms of the benefits and amount of security they provide, and, at the same time, they have become a much more sophisticated vehicle in terms of their structure. The contract provisions, tax implications and the options that are available in annuities today have increased their complexity making them more difficult to understand for even the most sophisticated investor.
Asking for annuity help is certainly not a poor reflection of anyone’s intelligence. In fact, doing so is a strong indication that a person knows enough about what he or she doesn’t know to ask the right questions, which is the hallmark of intelligence. Annuities are not like CDs in which you can just “set it and forget it”. There are a lot of moving parts in an annuity which may need to be tweaked from time to time in order to ensure it working optimally for your needs.
When to Seek Annuity Help
Your Financial Circumstance Have Changed
Annuities are purchased with a specific financial need in mind. And, it was through a careful analysis of your financial situation, tax status, risk tolerance, and investment preferences that an annuity was selected for its suitability in your case. When any of those factors change, it should trigger a re-evaluation of your financial situation to determine if any investment is no longer suitable. Although annuities are long-term contracts, they can be surrendered or transferred. There are possible fees and tax implications when doing either so it is best to seek the guidance of a financial professional who specializes in annuities.
Your family situation changes: One of the advantages of an annuity is that it allows you to designate persons as beneficiaries to the annuity proceeds in the event of the death of the annuitant. Additionally, beneficiary designations can be changed at any time, so if there is a change in your family situation, a birth, a death, an estrangement, or you want to restructure your estate with trusts, one of the first calls to make is to your annuity provider to make the appropriate designation change. Beneficiary designations can be very tricky and it would be important to seek guidance from an attorney or an annuity specialist to ensure they are legally correct.
Unhappy With Performance of Your Annuity Provider
With the purchase of an annuity comes certain expectations as to how your annuity provider should perform. If their performance in generating competitive returns, or providing responsive customer service, or maintaining a strong financial position as a company falls short of your expectations, you could consider transferring to another provider. Although transfers done through an IRC sanctioned 1035 exchange can be free of tax consequences, you may still incur fees for an early surrender. When considering an annuity transfer you should contact your provider to assess the financial consequences and then begin the process of a thorough exploration of alternative annuity providers.
You're Subject of a Lawsuit or Bankruptcy
Annuities can provide some protection against claims filed for debt collection or legal liabilities, but don’t be complacent. Each state has its own provisions that determine the level of protection. Some states allow for a full exemption of annuity values or income while others only allow for a partial exemption, and there are a handful of states that don’t allow any exemption. Do not wait until a judgment is filed against you. Check your state’s provisions now.
You Question the Integrity or Practices of Your Annuity Provider
This is when you should seek immediate help. It is always best to first allow your provider to try to remedy any disputes, but if you feel that they are not being responsive, you should contact the regulatory authorities. Your state’s Department of Insurance is your next stop.
Annuities are complex instruments that should be carefully studied before investing in them. Most good financial advisors will go through great lengths to determine their suitability for your needs and spend as much time as necessary to educate you in all aspects of the product. Annuity help is usually needed at some point after purchasing because things can change– in your own financial situation, the financial environment or the financial condition of the annuity provider – that could trigger the need to know if your annuity is still working to best fit your needs.
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