When it is time to begin the receiving end of your annuity, you may choose to take all of your investments and earnings (if any) at once, in a lump sum. Or you may decide to receive a regular distribution payment, usually monthly. When you first set up your annuity contract, you can decide if you want regular payments to run for a specified number of years or for an indefinite time frame. This would most likely be either the term of your life or the lifetime of your spouse (or other beneficiary you name). Another decision you may have is whether you want to receive payments in a fixed amount or an amount that will vary based on your funds' performances. The check you receive can vary based on how long the payments will be made.
Under the terms of some annuity contracts, once you begin to receive periodic payments you can no longer make withdrawals from the fund. If you think you may have some big expenses it may be better to take the payment in a lump sum.
Another interesting form of annuity is when there is no accumulation phase. Known as an immediate annuity, it would begin generating regular payments to you as soon as you purchase it. There may be tax benefits to making this choice, but you should discuss it with your tax advisor first.