Inheriting an Annuity From a Parent

Christian Worstell
In this article...
  • Explore key aspects of inheriting an annuity from a parent, including beneficiary designations, transfers, investments and tax implications.

Inheriting an annuity from a parent can be both a financial blessing and a complex responsibility.

This guide will walk you through the essential aspects of managing inherited annuities, ensuring that you make informed decisions about your new asset.

Table of Contents:


Understanding Inherited Annuities

Inherited annuities are an important part of estate planning and can provide a valuable source of income for beneficiaries. An inherited annuity is one in which the original owner has passed away and left it to someone else as a beneficiary.

The remaining payments from this annuity will be paid out over time, depending on the type of annuity contract held by the deceased annuitant’s IRA or other retirement account.

The two main types of inherited annuities are qualified and non-qualified.

Qualified inherited annuities are those acquired with pre-tax funds, whereas a non-qualified annuity has been procured using after-tax dollars. Taxes may vary between qualified and non-qualified inherited annuities due to the taxes associated with the initial investment. 

Beneficiaries inheriting a qualified annuity must pay taxes at their own rate, not the higher one applicable to estates/trusts. Failure to take all payments within five years may incur penalties or extra taxation. 

As a non-spouse beneficiary, you may be able to avoid income tax on your share of life insurance proceeds if the annuity is not qualified. Consult with a financial professional, as there are are often more flexible distribution options in most cases.

You could also benefit from having more flexibility when it comes to taking distributions since there is no five year rule in most cases (unless stipulated in the contract). 

Beneficiary Designations

When it comes to inherited annuities, beneficiary designations are of the utmost importance. The annuity owner must make sure their wishes are followed after they pass away. 

Inherited IRAs have different tax rules than qualified annuities or non-qualified annuities when the deceased was an annuitant.

Non-spouse beneficiaries can only rollover a deceased person's IRA into their own IRA if the original owner died before taking required minimum distributions (RMDs). If not, then all RMDs must be taken from the inherited IRA by December 31st of the year following death in order for taxes to be deferred until age 70½ as with a traditional IRA account or Roth account.

Life insurance proceeds can provide beneficiaries with a guaranteed monthly income, depending on the policy's structure. Those funds must be transferred into an inherited IRA for them to accrue tax-free and defer taxation until withdrawal at age 59½.

Transferring an Annuity

When transferring an annuity, you must first determine who will be receiving it and what type of ownership they will have over it.

The insurer must approve the recipient, be it a spouse, kid or other relative, before they can become the annuity's new proprietor. In certain cases, limits may be imposed on the amount of money that can be transferred in a single transaction or within a specified timeframe.

It’s also important to consider any state laws regarding transfers of annuities before proceeding with the transaction. Some jurisdictions require that all involved sign off on the transfer, while others necessitate court permission for it to occur.

Some states impose taxes on transferred assets while others do not. It’s important to familiarize yourself with your state's regulations prior to making any changes so you don't incur unexpected costs down the road.

Once the beneficiary of the annuity has been determined and all legalities satisfied, contact your insurer to provide documentation specifying who is receiving it and why (e.g., death or divorce). You'll then need to complete paperwork detailing how much money is being transferred and sign off on it before sending everything back for processing by your insurer's representative(s).

Once approved by both parties involved (you and/or your designated recipient), funds should typically arrive within two weeks' time depending upon payment method chosen (check versus direct deposit).

Investment Strategies for Inherited Annuities

When it comes to investing inherited annuities, there are a few strategies that can help you maximize returns while minimizing risk.

  • The first strategy is diversification. Diversifying your portfolio by investing in a variety of assets and markets can help reduce the associated risks with any one particular investment.

    By diversifying into multiple asset classes, both domestic and international, one can reduce the risk associated with any single investment.

  • Another strategy is dollar-cost averaging. This involves investing a fixed amount of money at regular intervals over time instead of trying to time the market or buy all at once when prices are low.

    Regularly investing a set sum of money over time, as opposed to attempting to buy when costs are high, can help reduce market variations and enhance your long-term return.

  • It’s also important to consider tax implications when investing inherited annuities since taxes can eat into your return on investment if not managed properly.

    Consult a financial advisor or accountant to discover potential methods of reducing taxable income from annuity distributions, such as delaying them until later years or transferring into another qualified plan like an IRA or 401(k).

Investing wisely in inherited annuities requires careful consideration of multiple factors including taxation, diversification and cost management. Consequently, researching thoroughly is essential to achieving the most advantageous outcome while reducing hazard.

Tax Implications of Inherited Annuities

Annuities are generally taxed as ordinary income and may be subject to federal or state taxes. Beneficiaries should also consider any deductions or credits available when filing their taxes.

Recipient of an inherited annuity must list the sum gotten every year on their individual tax filing. Inherited annuities may be subject to taxation at standard rates, reaching up to 37%, depending on the kind. Beneficiaries may have to pay a 10% early withdrawal penalty if they take money out before age 59½.

Inherited IRA’s are treated differently than other types of inherited annuities and require special consideration when filing taxes.

Generally speaking, distributions from Inherited IRAs are not subject to additional taxation unless they exceed certain thresholds established by law. There can be exceptions depending on who inherits the account and how long after death it was distributed.

Withdrawals from employer-sponsored retirement plans such as 401(k)s, 457(b)s and 403(b)s are subject to federal and state taxes, in addition to any applicable early withdrawal penalties.

The same is true for Roth IRAs which were funded with post-tax dollars. You’ll still need to pay taxes on your withdrawals even though contributions were made with after-tax dollars initially.

Inherited Annuity FAQs

Can you inherit your parent's annuity?

No, you cannot inherit your parents' annuity. An annuity is generally not able to be passed on if a different agreement between the insurer and policy proprietor is in place.

Upon death, any remaining funds in an annuity will be paid out to a beneficiary designated by the policyholder at their discretion. If no beneficiaries were named, then it may be subject to probate laws or go into estate settlement proceedings depending on state law.

What happens if I just inherited an annuity?

Generally speaking, an annuity provides a steady stream of income for life or a specific period of time.

Depending on how the annuity was structured when purchased by your relative, there may be tax implications associated with taking distributions from the account.

Seek advice from a financial specialist or tax advisor to discern what your most beneficial choices are with respect to handling and utilizing this new asset.

What is the 5 year rule for inherited annuity?

Within five years of the original owner's passing, all payments from an inherited annuity must be received by the beneficiary or face taxation and penalties.

If any payments are not received by this time, then they will be subject to taxation and penalties. The beneficiary is also required to keep records of all transactions related to the inheritance in order to prove compliance with this rule. 


It is important to understand the beneficiary designations, transfer process, investment strategies, and tax implications of inherited annuities before making any decisions.

With proper research and planning, inheriting an annuity from a parent can help provide financial security for years to come.

Christian Worstell
About the Author

Christian Worstell is a senior Medicare and health insurance writer with He is also a licensed health insurance agent. Christian is well-known in the insurance industry for the thousands of educational articles he’s written, helping Americans better understand their health insurance and Medicare coverage.

Christian’s work as a Medicare expert has appeared in several top-tier and trade news outlets including Forbes, MarketWatch, WebMD and Yahoo! Finance.

While at HelpAdvisor, Christian has written hundreds of articles that teach Medicare beneficiaries the best practices for navigating Medicare. His articles are read by thousands of older Americans each month. By better understanding their health care coverage, readers may hopefully learn how to limit their out-of-pocket Medicare spending and access quality medical care.

Christian’s passion for his role stems from his desire to make a difference in the senior community. He strongly believes that the more beneficiaries know about their Medicare coverage, the better their overall health and wellness is as a result.

A current resident of Raleigh, Christian is a graduate of Shippensburg University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. You can find Christian’s most recent articles in our blog.

If you’re a member of the media looking to connect with Christian, please don’t hesitate to email our public relations team at

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