What is a Structured Settlement? Straight talk about structured settlements

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1 Woodbridge Structured Funding LLC What is a Structured Settlement? Straight talk about structured settlements Learn more about structured settlements: Why settled personal injury cases are often paid out in this manner and how they protect you. Also learn when selling may be beneficial to you and your family. 2012

2 Structured Settlements: Accommodate Larger Judgments and Provide Protection Prior to the 1970s, most compensation claims for injuries, liability and malpractice were paid out in lump sums. But, as the dollar amount of these awards began to rise dramatically, the structured settlement became a sensible alternative that protected the interests of the injured party and also provided tax incentives to annuity providers. A structured settlement is an alternative to a lump sum cash award. It is an arrangement which ensures that monthly, quarterly or annual payments are paid out to the claimant over an extended period, from 10 to 50 years or longer. Often, settlements are set up as structured payouts over time in order to assure the plaintiff has the funds necessary to survive over their lifetime. The payment structure also gives the insurance company the ability to invest less in an annuity than the actual aggregate amount awarded, helping to balance out their risks over time. However, a structured settlement can give the plaintiff a false sense of the actual amount of the settlement due to the much lower present value of the award in relation to the total amount of future payments. The injured party benefits by receiving a secure, long-term guaranteed income stream to help pay for medical care or replace income lost due to an inability to work. The structured settlement also protects the injured party from spending a lump sum award in a short period of time thus leaving him and his family stranded without a critical flow of income. On the downside, however, these periodic payments are fixed and offer no liquidity and payments cannot be accelerated, increased or deferred. 2

3 How does an annuity work? Insurance companies purchase special investment products called annuities through their own annuity divisions or from other life insurance companies. They are purchased for a fraction of the cost of the judgment. These annuities are set up to automatically fund periodic payments to the claimant who is named as the annuitant or payee. Payments continue for a period certain, which can range from 10 to 50 years and, in many cases can extend throughout the annuitant s lifetime. In the end, the claimant and/or his beneficiaries will have received the total amount of the award for damages. With the purchase of an annuity, the obligation to guarantee the recurring periodic payments, as set forth in the structured settlement agreement, is assigned to a third party. Can a structured settlement be sold? While receiving guaranteed periodic payments may be the perfect solution for many individuals, for others it may not be the ideal scenario. Having one's money locked up in an annuity and well out of reach can be frustrating and inconvenient. There are many circumstances in which having access to a lump sum payment would be preferable. For instance, an annuitant may be looking to buy a home and needs a down payment, or would like to pay off large debt. Other reasons may be the desire to send their child to college or maybe even go back to college themselves to train for a new career. These are all good reasons to cash out all or a portion of a structured settlement. Fortunately, there are cash flow purchasers that can legally purchase all or part of a structured settlement s future payments for a cash lump sum. 3

4 Some payment streams cannot be sold There are specific types of annuities that typically cannot be sold. They include: Worker s compensation payments (in most states) Payments to a minor Pensions Social security payments VA disability or pension Federal and state law helps protect structured settlement owners Federal and state statutes require court approval of a structured settlement transfer. In 2002, the federal government passed the Structured Settlement Protection Act ("Federal Act") that requires court approval to determine whether or not it is in "the best interest of the payee" to sell their annuity payment rights. The Federal Act requires the approval of the state court, if that state has a statute, to avoid any excise tax for the acquirer of the structured settlement payment rights. The court will look at the reasons for the sale, take into account the financial situation of the individual or family and determine whether the sale is well-advised. The law further protects the structured settlement recipient by mandating that companies advise those looking to sell their annuities to independently seek the advice of a lawyer or financial advisor before making any decision involving their structured settlement. 4

5 Is selling a structured settlement a good idea? If one s savings is substantial enough to cover unexpected expenses such as medical bills, home repairs or tuition, then the individual may benefit from keeping his structured settlement intact. However, individuals who are smart investors, may want to cash out of their structured settlements in order to be able to reposition the lump sum into higher yielding investments that offer more liquidity. Also, using the lump sum to pay off high interest loans, college tuition or as a down payment on a home can provide savings in interest charges that may make it worthwhile to cash out. You may gain greater benefit by putting the money to work for you in a high-yield investment. Valid reasons for selling a structured settlement Among the most common reasons individuals choose to sell their structured settlements is to: Pay off high interest debt Achieve big dreams buy a business, purchase a home, get a college education Fund potentially higher yielding investments Maintain liquidity for emergencies 5

6 Can a structured settlement be sold in part? The recipients of structured settlements have the option to sell all or just some of their future payments. The decision should be based on the amount of cash need presently as well as what that need might be in the near future. By keeping some future payments intact, the structured settlement owner can maintain a future income stream. In other words, if only some structured settlement payments are sold, the annuitant continues to receive funds from the portion of the structured settlement he/she still owns as those payments become due. Also, should the need for cash arise again at a later date, it is possible to sell additional future payments at that time. Five steps to getting started An individual considering selling structured settlement payments should start with the following five steps: 1. Evaluate your reasons for selling 2. Consult a legal or financial advisor 3. Decide the number of installments to sell 4. Research structured settlement buyers 5. Get comparative quotes from buyers While companies are legally bound to honor their quoted price, most offers include a set expiration date. 6

7 Choosing a buyer Before getting comparative offers, it is sensible to research and compare structured settlement companies. You will want to make sure that the company you choose has a long-standing reputation for fairness and reliability. Search the internet to identify potential buyers Review customer comments and testimonials Consult the Better Business Bureau website (www.bbb.org) to get third-party insight into the company s reputation and to make sure you are dealing with a legitimate company with no serious complaints on record The ideal company takes the time to explain the specific details of selling and that company demonstrates a consistently solid track record for successful court approvals. Getting comparative quotes Once a list of 3-5 potential buyers has been compiled, it is time to get comparative quotes. Avoid any buyer who modifies his offer from the original bid or who promises to get you unusually quick access to your funds. Typically, the process takes 6-8 weeks Don t just look at the bottom line. Read all paperwork thoroughly, and closely examine the fine print for any unanticipated fees or special terms Ask about court fees, processing fees or other expenses Beware of offers that seem too good to be true Don t be pressured into selling your payments Careful research and comparison of offers is crucial to getting the best possible offer. A potential seller may do 7

8 well to obtain legal advice or the guidance of a financial advisor when reviewing and comparing offers. Only sign a contract that shows the exact amount you will receive and specifies any expenses to be taken out. The selling process Once an agreed to price with a reputable buyer is reached and a contract is signed, here s what will happen next: The potential seller signs an affidavit stating the specific reason for the sale A petition is then filed with the local court A court date is set for a hearing before a judge who will determine if there is good cause for the sale whether or not the transaction is in the best interest of the structured settlement holder and whether the offer in the transaction is fair. The judge will look at the individual s financial situation along with the reasons for selling the payments. If the court denies the petition, the structured settlement company is liable for all costs incurred and the annuitant will continue to receive payments from his structured settlement as before. If the judge approves the application and signs the court order, upon receipt of an acknowledgement from the insurance company, the buyer will wire the funds to the seller s account or issue a check; this may take up to several days. 8

9 A judge has the power to approve a sale if it is in your best interest even if there is language within your settlement agreement or structured settlement annuity that states you are not able to sell or assign your payments. What happens to my payments if I die? Depending on how the structured settlement agreement is written, there are several possible scenarios: Payments continue to be paid out to the beneficiary if still within the period certain timeframe Payments cease upon the death of the policy holder if only life contingent payments remain The annuity is held in joint with right of survivor It is advisable to review the structured settlement agreement with an attorney or financial advisor to find out which of these scenarios apply. 9

10 Why is a lump sum payment always less than the value of remaining payments? When selling to a financial institution or factoring company that specializes in purchasing structured settlements for a lump sum, the seller can always expect to receive less than the aggregate value of the remaining future payments. These companies use a standard formula for determining the present day value of the annuity. The formula they use discounts for inflation and determines the present value of a future payment that will often not be paid out for another 10, 20, or even 50 years. Think of it as the reverse of a mortgage. If you take out a 30- year loan for $200,000, in the end you would have paid between $500,000 - $600,000 to the bank. When a financial institution buys your structured settlement, they start with the aggregate end amount and back into the present day value. What percentage of future value is typical? When selling future payments for a lump sum payment, individuals can expect to receive varying percentages of the aggregate value of their payments, depending on how far into the future the payments are sold. Bear in mind that this also takes into account the standard filing and court fees, lien searches and transfer fees which must be factored in. The deduction for these fees should be taken out by the structured settlement company before any lump sum amount is quoted. 10

11 Even though the lump sum payment may be less than the total value of all remaining payments, it may still be more advantageous to use that lump sum to pay off high interest loans, credit cards or a mortgage. Conclusion The decision to sell a structured settlement is a highly personal one and depends heavily upon the individual s financial circumstances. The current need for access to cash should be balanced against the need for maintaining an ongoing income stream. It is always advisable for the potential seller to carefully weigh all options and to consult with a lawyer or financial advisor. If you have any further questions about structured settlements, contact Woodbridge Structured Funding, LLC for assistance. To speak with a Woodbridge representative, call

12 About Woodbridge Structured Funding, LLC Woodbridge Structured Funding, LLC provides an expert team dedicated to serving our customers needs. It is our mission to educate our customers on their financial options and help them decide for themselves whether to sell their future payments from structured settlements, annuities, or lottery winnings, for a cash lump-sum. At Woodbridge Structured Funding, LLC, we open up new opportunities for financial freedom for our customers, enabling them to make dreams such as home-ownership, higher education, debt relief, and lifestyle upgrades a reality for themselves and their loved ones. A leader in our field, Woodbridge Structured Funding relies on proven, trusted techniques and years of experience in order to craft innovative solutions that work for our customers individual financial needs. We put our expertise to work for our customers, allowing them to best utilize their financial resources in order to meet both their current and long term goals. Woodbridge Structured Funding, LLC together with its predecessor companies and founders have been pioneers in the financial services industry for nearly twenty years. They were the first to innovate the purchase of future periodic payments in return for a lump sum and since 1993 have purchased nearly one billion dollars in lottery jackpot, structured settlement and annuity payments. 12

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