(NewsUSA) - It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Maybe you were in an auto accident, and for whatever reason -- taxes spring to mind -- you agreed to forgo a large, lump-sum payout from the other driver's insurance company in favor of small periodic payments. Or maybe your child was born with a birth defect that Big Pharma was held legally liable for, and all you could think about was making sure the money to care for him would be flowing in for decades.
Whatever the case, you've decided that "structured settlement," as it's called, no longer works for you.
"Sometimes cashing in is the only option," says Bankrate.com. "That $500 monthly payment from an accident in 2002 may have helped with the medical bills early on, but if the beneficiary has now lost his job and is on the verge of losing a home, a lump-sum payout of $50,000 may seem quite enticing."
In fact, an estimated $6 billion in structured settlements are bought or sold in any given year. Not all players are alike, though, so you'll want to be sure you don't just automatically call the 1-800 number you saw in some come-on TV ad.
One new web-based entry in the field, SellMyAnnuity.net, stands out for the care it takes to make the process utterly transparent for potential sellers. It's not just that it provides hundreds of examples of past sales -- including six-figure ones -- to give you an idea of what to expect before requesting to be contacted by an agent. No, it actually features PDFs of signed court documents.
Did you get that? PDFs. Of. Signed. Court. Documents.
"We're committed to providing more information about structured settlement annuity sales than any other company in the industry," says Todd Albert, SellMyAnnuity's chief technology officer. "And we'll help people determine whether they should sell, how many payments they want to sell, and of course make sure they get as much money as possible as fast as possible."
The website also explains how various federal and state laws exist to protect you from doing anything foolish. Chief among them: Even after you've accepted an offer, a court judge who's heard your reasons for trading future payments for an immediate lump sum must confirm the sale is in your "best interest."
"You can't turn a structured settlement into cash just because you'd like a new car," says Albert. "But things like buying or repairing a home, starting a business, funding a college education and paying off debt can be acceptable."