Jason Kurland, a New York attorney who had represented over 30 lottery jackpot winners has a step-by-step guide when it comes to winning the lottery.
His first piece of advice? “Stay quiet!”
"You want to make sure you don't tell your family and your friends that you're this new multimillionaire," said the self-proclaimed "lottery lawyer" Jason Kurland.
"I know it's something you're going to want to do but you really need to keep quiet."
Kurland said that the minute you discover that you have won the lottery jackpot, that the important thing to realise is, you only get the one chance to do it right.
"The time between the time you know you won and claiming (your prize) is your last chance of normalcy," he said. "So that's the time you're going to want to assemble your team of professionals: lawyers, financial planners, accountants. And you don't want friends and family coming out of the woodwork asking for handouts before you've even come forward to the world."
The attorney said that he has represented some of the biggest lottery winners in history and although it’s a tiny niche in the legal profession, he finds it fascinating.
"Everybody plays the lottery, whether you're from a rich neighbourhood or poorer neighbourhood, all over the country, young, old, married, single, lot of children, grandchildren, everybody comes," he said. "Watching them each grow into their new life is very exciting."
He said that even though everyone is different, one thing that all lottery jackpot winners have in common is that fact that their stories have common threads that are important to know about, should you get lucky enough one day and win the jackpot yourself.
Sign the back of the ticket!
Once the initial shock subsides to a close panic, the first order of business is to make sure that you sign the back of the ticket. This will ensure that nobody else can lay claim to the prize.
"The back of the ticket needs to be signed because it's a bearer instrument. God forbid you lose that ticket, and somebody finds it and signs it. It's theirs," Kurland said.
However, you also might want to think about whether or not you are going to claim your ticket publically or whether you would prefer to do so anonymously.
In the event that you would like to keep your identity private, you would not sign the back of the lottery ticket, but rather speak to a financial advisor and open up a Trust in order to claim the prize.
He went on to say that, “Every state is different, so depending on what state you live in, you might be able to claim as an entity, and you may be able to keep some anonymity."
For those wondering why some states allow winners to keep their identities private and other states don’t, like Iowa – the reason is to root out potential fraud.
In 2011, fraudster Eddie Tipton tried to use a Trust based in Belize to claim a $16.5 million prize.
Iowa Lottery CEO Terry Rich remembers thinking, "Ding – ding – ding! Something is screwy."
For those that don’t know about Eddie Tipton, he was a supervisor at the Multi-State Lottery Association, which oversees sweepstakes in 36 U.S. states and territories.
As a computer expert, he found a way to rig lotteries in five states and claimed just over $25 million in prizes. He was naturally caught and is serving a 25-year prison sentence after pleading guilty.
"I absolutely believe Eddie Tipton would still be doing this today if we would have allowed anonymous winners," said Kurland.
Lump sum or annuity?
Another important factor you will have to decide upon is whether or not you are going to claim the lottery jackpot prize as an upfront lump sum payout or take the jackpot in periodic payments — known as an annuity.
While the lump-sum payment is typically smaller than the advertised prize since you are getting all of the money at once, Kurland says in most cases you should take the smaller sum.
"You can make more money investing it yourself," he said. "And you can make very safe investments, but you'll still make more money than if you take the annuity payments."
A key consideration when choosing to take your lottery prize either as an annuity or a lump sum is taxes. It’s for this reason too, that all lottery jackpot winners should include a good accountant on their team of professionals.
He said, "You're going to be in the highest tax bracket no matter what.”
Another argument for taking the annuity is that it forces discipline on the winner – especially for those winners who have struggled with debt in the past.
"Once in a while if I see one of my clients is going to spend like a drunken sailor and I don't trust that they're going to be able to safely invest, then I'll say, 'Maybe the annuity is for you,'" Kurland said. "But almost always, I like the lump sum."
Have a Will
There are a surprising amount of people who have not created a Will and financial advisors will ensure that your estate will be in good order.
For lottery players that have been exercising prudent financial planning all along, you will already have this in place and your winnings may only necessitate minor changes.
"God forbid something happens," Kurland said. "Even before we claim the ticket, it could be a nightmare with family. So, you need to get a Will drawn up, you need to get Trusts, you need to get that estate planning in place pretty quickly."
Ready, set, spend!
Finally! The moment the money reflects in your bank account is probably the most joyous moment of your life.
It absolutely natural to want to spend some of it immediately, but Kurland says you need to be beware of your impulses.
"Take a deep breath. Wait a few months before you start splurging. If there's something you really want and it's not even going to put a dent in your wealth, go buy a car, things like that, it's OK. But just don't go over the top."
He went on to say that over the years he has unfortunately witnessed too many cases of regret on the part of winners who did not think things through.
"People don't realize what everything costs. They're going to buy a $5 million house, but they don't realize what the monthly maintenance on that house is going to be," he said. "They think that they're going to buy a car and it's going to be great, but maybe in two years that car has no more value."
As a new millionaire, you are likely to gain plenty of new "friends," as in people asking for money. Some of those requests will be legitimate, from people you want to help. Others, not so much. Again, this is where your team of professionals comes in.
"What winners need to do is to lean on their lottery lawyer, lean on their wealth managers, and use them as a sort of buffer," Kurland said. "We can explain to them the situation and then we can meet with our clients separately and figure out who they want to give their funds to."
Like most people, you have been fantasying about winning the lottery and being able to say, “I quit!” The reality is, and we’ve seen this on numerous occasions, is that quite a few lottery jackpot winners these days want to keep on working.
"It's a constant theme, and something I've really learned to appreciate with them, that they don't want to change who they are," he said.
"If you're making a couple of hundred thousand dollars a month, it's important to make sure that that's growing the proper way," he said. "You really don't have time to do that if you're working your regular job eight or nine hours a day."
Above all, Kurland said that if you win the lottery you really do need to stay calm, even though it’s one of the most outrageous things that could happen to anyone and an absolute dream come true.
"You need to take a deep breath. You need to relax. This is a great thing. Don't freak out. You're going to do it the right way if you hire the right professionals, and this is just a wonderful thing," he said.
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