I WON!!! I WON!! WHAT DO I DO NOW? PROTECTING YOURSELF AND YOUR LOTTERY WINNINGS
Many people fantasize about winning the lottery, but what do you do if hit the big one? Or even win a smaller amount? Many individuals do not know how to properly claim their winnings or how to protect their newly acquired wealth.
The first thing you should do is secure the winning ticket. Make several copies of the winning ticket and place the original in a safe and secure location such as a bank safe deposit box or a home safe. Only show the copy to lawyers, accountants, or financial specialists. Be sure to read each game’s rules and contract before signing the winning ticket. It may help to contact a lawyer to explain what you are signing.
To protect yourself financially, make a plan for the money and put together a team of financial experts. You should strongly consider resources for financial planning tools and professionals such as CPA, lawyers, and financial advisors to help guide you in protecting your assets. You do not want to outspend your winnings in your excitement! As part of this process, you should make a general list of what you wish to do with the money. Write down your personal, financial, lifestyle, family and charity goals, and return to that plan later to help keep things on the right track for the long run.
Put off making big decisions right away. Winning a few million dollars will tempt almost any person to make a big purchase or lifestyle change. Instead of choosing early retirement or making some other dramatic move, you may want to consider keeping at least a part–time job, pursuing higher education, taking on volunteer work, or engaging in passion-filled hobbies.
Protecting your privacy is another important step. Many winners experience a barrage of requests for financial help from friends and family. You want to keep your identity a secret when you claim the winnings. An attorney can assist in setting up a trust to claim the money on your behalf without disclosing your identity or provide help in minimizing your exposure. You may also decide to change your phone number and/or email. Many lotteries share names or require interviews or press conference participation for transparency reasons. Keeping your winnings private before that ticket is turned in is very important. Unless, of course, you are in an office pool – then everyone will know that you won!
And of course, be prepared for the scams and scammers who will try to take advantage of your new found wealth. Some scammers will falsely identify themselves as a lottery employee. Lottery scammers are persistent, use real or made-up company names, and may offer a free play or prize to try to look legitimate. Many times theses scammers can also ask for personal information or payments that they claim are for taxes or fees.
So how do you protected yourself from these scammers? It’s important to know that no representative of Mega Millions would ever call, text or e-mail anyone about winning a prize. You should be suspicious of any claim that you won a game that’s never been played. Be suspicious of emails that come in with misspellings or poor grammar, or if a contact asks to keep correspondence confidential or asks for banking information. No legitimate lottery tells winners to put up their own money in order to collect a prize they have already won.
If you need assistance in claiming your lottery winnings, protecting you from scammers, or in discussing asset protection options, the attorneys at Waldron & Schneider are here to assist.
The legal information in this blog entry is not intended to be a substitute for seeking personalized legal advice from an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction. Further, nothing contained in this article is intended to create an attorney-client relationship with any reader. This article and website are made available by Waldron & Schneider for educational purposes only and to give basic information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this website you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and Waldron & Schneider. The article and website should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state. For more information or questions you can contact us and one of our attorneys will be in touch soon.