When you invest in your annuity you also choose how you want your eventual payouts to be calculated. Your options include:
Income for guaranteed period (also called period certain annuity). You are guaranteed a specific payment amount for a set period of time (say, five years or 30 years). If you die before the end of the period your beneficiary will receive the remainder of the payments for the guaranteed period.
Lifetime payments. A guaranteed income payout during your lifetime only; there is no survivor benefit. The payouts can be fixed or variable. The amount of the payout is determined by how much you invest and your life expectancy. At the time of death all payments stop - your heirs don't get anything.
Income for life with a guaranteed period certain benefit (also called life with period certain). A combination of a life annuity and a period certain annuity. You receive a guaranteed payout for life that includes a period certain phase. If you die during the period certain phase of the account, your beneficiary will continue to receive the payment for the remainder of the period. For example, life with a 10 year period certain is a common arrangement. If you die five years after you begin collecting, the payments continue to your survivor for five more years.
Joint and survivor annuity. Your beneficiary will continue to receive payouts for the rest of his or her life after you die. A popular option for married couples.