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A single-life annuity is established to provide payments only to the annuitant for as long as they draw on it. It can also be called a "single life" or "term" annuity, which pays out over a fixed period of time, usually 10 or 20 years. A joint-and-survivor annuity, on the other hand, covers two people at once. The payments continue until either spouse dies, which means that if one spouse lives longer than the other, they will receive more of this type of payment.

The other type of joint annuity is a last survivor option, which tells you that the payments will continue only as long as at least one spouse is still alive. If there are multiple beneficiaries or if money needs to be set aside for children who are minors, this can also be called "joint and survivor with children's period." A life annuity with period certain is similar to a joint-and-survivor annuity, because it continues until at least one of the spouses dies. Here, though, there is also a set time frame for payments - usually 10 or 20 years - and if either person outlives this allotted time frame, they will not receive any more money.

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