How to Claim an American Express Annuity

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American Express provided annuities via its IDS Insurance subsidiary for many years. On August 1, 2005, American Express spun off its insurance and investment services as Ameriprise Financial. Annuities bearing the American Express, RiverSource Life or IDS Life brand-names are now serviced via Ameriprise Financial. Since all annuities have a defined owner, claiming an annuity is something one only has to deal with upon the death of a loved one. As beneficiary, understanding the steps to claim the annuity can make the process easier.

Things You'll Need

  • Copy of annuity (or account number)
  • Death certificate for annuitant
  • Determine who the beneficiary of the annuity is. Annuities are insurance products with a named beneficiary. As such, they pass outside of the probate process and are not subject to the will or any other legal documents. Only the beneficiary may claim the annuity.

  • Examine the policy to determine what the death benefit of the policy is. Some annuities may have no death benefit, meaning that there is nothing left to claim. Other annuities may have an "enhanced death benefit," in which the beneficiaries are entitled to money above and beyond that which is left remaining in the contract. Knowing this information will allow you to have a better conversation regarding your options.

  • Examine the policy or other records to identify the annuity owner's financial adviser. It is generally easier to deal with a specific person than with an 800 number. If contact information can be found, contact the deceased's adviser. If not, contact Ameriprise directly at (800) 862-7919. Inform the company or adviser that the client has died. This will start the estate settlement process.

  • Request that all the required documentation be mailed to you, and learn the location where documents may be found online. This ensures that you have all the proper forms even if you cannot find certain forms or have trouble printing or downloading them. In particular, you will need at least the Insurance and Annuity Death Claim Statement.

  • Determine what payment options are available. Depending upon the type of annuity and the relationship of the beneficiary, there may be different options available, including continuing the annuity (if spouse), receiving a lump sum payment and receiving multiple payments.

  • Return the proper documentation along with a copy of the death certificate. Keep copies of all documents for your own records.

Tips & Warnings

  • Consult a professional other than the one who is handling the estate regarding your options to avoid any conflicts of interest.
  • There can be significant tax consequences from claiming an annuity. Consult a tax professional prior to choosing any payout option. Once chosen, some selections are irreversible.
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