What to Know About Inheriting an Annuity from a Parent

Shawn Plummer

CEO, The Annuity Expert

If you are lucky enough to inherit an annuity from a parent, there are some things that you should know before you start withdrawing money. First, annuities are usually set up, so the payouts continue for a predetermined number of years or until death occurs. This means that if you withdraw all of your funds immediately, it is possible that they won’t last as long as initially expected. One way around this is to take out just enough money each year, so there will still be funds left over when the payout period ends.

What Happens To An Annuity After A Parent Dies?

The death benefit paid through an annuity contract depends on whether the contract owner/annuitant (parent) passes away before or after the annuitization of the annuity (start date). Any payment payable to a beneficiary will be subject to the type of annuity chosen and any refund provision or guarantee period if death occurs after the annuity starting date.


If children are named beneficiaries, they are limited to distributions:

  • in a lump sum within five years of death or
  • under lifetime periodic payments beginning within one year after the death.

Annuity Payouts

When the parent dies, the annuity payments generally will cease. However, some annuitized payouts include a death benefit clause that allows the owner to name someone to receive any remaining installments.

Death Benefits Before And After Annuitization

Annuitization is typically optional with modern deferred annuities. These are the options for children beneficiaries before and after the annuity was annuitized.

If Parent Dies Before Annuitization

If an annuitant (parent) dies before annuitization begins, the beneficiaries (children) will receive either the annuity’s value in a lump sum or a series of payments.

If Parent Dies After Annuitization

If an annuitant (parent) dies after annuitization begins, the beneficiaries (children) will receive either the remaining annuity payments or nothing, depending on the annuitant’s choice of an annuity payout.

Dies Before AnnuitizationDies After Annuitization
Lump-Sum DistributionSeries of Payments
Spousal ContinuanceNo Death Benefit

Annuities With And Without Death Benefits

Fixed Index
Principal ProtectionNoYesYesYesYes
Access To PrincipalYesYesYesNoNo
Control Over MoneyYesYesYesNoNo
Tax-Deferred GrowthYesYesYesNoNo
Guaranteed GrowthNoYesYesNoNo
Guaranteed IncomeYesYesYesYesYes
Inflation ProtectionYesYesNoYesYes
Death BenefitYesYesYesYes/NoYes/No
Long-Term Care HelpYesYesYesNoNo

Annuity Inheritance Payout Options

If a child inherits an annuity from their parents, they have three ways to get the money.

Lump-Sum Distribution

A lump-sum distribution is when the beneficiary gets the remaining annuity’s value in one payment.

Nonqualified-Stretch Provision

A nonqualified stretch provision will give a beneficiary the payments they are entitled to based on life expectancy.

Five-Year Rule

An annuity’s beneficiary has five years to take out the proceeds. After that, they can take them out gradually or in a single lump sum anytime, as long as they withdraw all of the death benefits within five years of the annuitant’s death.

Will I Have To Pay Taxes On The Annuity I Inherited From My Parent?

Annuities are taxed as ordinary income when inherited. The proceeds of inheritance are taxable.

If a beneficiary opts to receive the money all at once, they must pay taxes immediately. This is only if you take a lump sum.

If a beneficiary takes the money over time, no taxes are owed until the annuity is cashed in.

Inherited Qualified Annuities

All inheritable qualified annuities, usually IRA ones, are subject to income taxes (100% of the assets).

Inherited Nonqualified Annuities

All inheritable nonqualified annuities are subject to income taxes on interest earned only.

How To Reduce Paying Taxes On An Inherited Annuity

When you inherit an annuity, you can’t avoid paying taxes altogether. However, there are steps you can take to reduce your tax burden.

  1. Bonus annuities: A child beneficiary can reinvest the inheritance with a deferred annuity that offers a premium bonus. The bonus will offset the taxes owed.
  2. Enhanced Death Benefits: A living parent can now purchase an annuity with an enhanced death benefit to offset their beneficiary’s future taxes when they die.
  3. Life Insurance: A living parent can use withdrawals from the annuity to pay for life insurance in which the proceeds will be tax-free to the children.

The Beneficiary is a Minor

If a parent names a child the primary or contingent beneficiary, under that owner’s state’s Uniform Transfers to Minors Act, the child’s money will be placed in a custodial account for that child’s benefit to a certain age.

Suppose a parent dies and leaves money to a child directly or names that child as a beneficiary of a life insurance policy or a retirement account (annuity). In that case, a court must appoint a property guardian to manage that child’s money eighteen.

Every state has its own set of rules, so please check with the state.

How To Find A Missing Annuity Death Benefit

If parents do not disclose all financial sources to their children, beneficiaries can find lost death benefits from annuities by contacting the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. You can do this with a death certificate from the funeral home that conducted the burial or cremation. The process could take up to 90 business days. Be prepared to have as much personal information about the person who died, like their name, social security number, date of birth, etc.

Shawn Plummer

CEO, The Annuity Expert

I’m a licensed financial professional focusing on annuities and insurance for more than a decade. My former role was training financial advisors, including for a Fortune Global 500 insurance company. I’ve been featured in Time Magazine, Yahoo! Finance, MSN, SmartAsset, Entrepreneur, Bloomberg, The Simple Dollar, U.S. News and World Report, and Women’s Health Magazine.

The Annuity Expert is an online insurance agency servicing consumers across the United States. My goal is to help you take the guesswork out of retirement planning or find the best insurance coverage at the cheapest rates for you. 

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