What Happens to an Annuity if the Contract is Surrendered?

Deferred annuity contracts permit the contract owner to surrender the annuity contract during the accumulation period and receive a cash payment from the insurance company. This amount is called the cash value or cash surrender value of the contract. It equals the sum of premiums paid plus any earnings, minus prior withdrawals and charges deducted. The owner may take partial withdrawals or fully surrender the contract during the accumulation phase. Penalties for early withdrawal may be incurred and federal income taxes will apply to any gain in the contract value. The amount paid to the contract owner on surrender may be subject to surrender charges, which generally range from 5 percent to 7 percent. Some deferred annuity contracts impose surrender charges only for an initial period after the contract is purchased; others start a new surrender charge period for each individual premium paid. Surrender charges usually decline to zero over a period of time, such as five or seven years.

A partial surrender is the withdrawal of an amount less than the entire cash surrender value of the contract. Partial surrenders can also be taken as a pre-scheduled series of payments under a systematic withdrawal plan. Many contracts permit annual withdrawals of an amount, such as 10 percent of the contract value, which is free of a surrender charge. Tax penalties may apply, however.

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