Thinking of Going Off the Grid After Winning the Lottery? Not So Fast
Everyone dreams of it: having a small piece of paper with the right numbers printed on it and winning the life-changing $200 million, $700 million or $1 billion jackpot. But what happens after you win?
Many winners decide to remain anonymous — or at least try to — but that can be difficult when many states demand that the winners of large jackpots show their faces at news conferences.
At his own news conference in Madison, Wis., Manuel Franco, 24, who in a Powerball drawing last month won $768 million, the third-largest jackpot in United States lottery history, seemed to be trying not to divulge too much information about himself, perhaps to keep random family members from coming out of the woodwork. Speaking with reporters on Tuesday, he declined to say where he grew up, where he lived, what kind of car he drove or where he used to work. (He quit two days after winning.)
Arizona, Delaware, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Texas, North Dakota and Ohio allow lottery winners to conceal their identities if the winnings exceed a certain dollar amount, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Other states, like New York, make it easy for winners to collect their prizes under the cover of an L.L.C. or an entity. But states like Wisconsin want winners to come forward to claim their prizes, although Wisconsin does not require them to appear at a news conference as Mr. Franco did.
After Mr. Franco’s $768 million win, “it seems a little ridiculous that there isn’t privacy when it comes to that,” Gary Tauchen, a Wisconsin state representative, said. “Certainly you have a lot of fourth and fifth cousins and it is just a situation when you’re under high stress.”
While Mr. Franco was answering questions about his lottery winnings as concisely as possible, Mr. Tauchen was introducing a bill seeking to ensure the privacy of lottery winners in Wisconsin.
“I know that it is one of those life-changing experiences when you need some time to adjust,” Mr. Tauchen said. “You don’t need the stress of other people putting pressure on you.”
And for jackpot winners like Mr. Franco, the pressure comes nearly immediately.
“For the next two weeks, people are going to be outside of his house,” Jason M. Kurland, a lawyer who has represented several winners of large lottery jackpots, said on Wednesday.
“I get those letters every week,” Mr. Kurland said, referring to the mail he receives intended for his clients. “They range from congratulatory letters to individuals having a tough time asking for handouts, to organizations looking for donations, to business men and women asking for investors.”
Mr. Kurland, who calls himself the Lottery Lawyer and represented the person in South Carolina who won the $1.54 billion Mega Millions jackpot last year, advises his clients to delete all their social media accounts before they claim their winnings. He also tells them to try to remove their address from public view as much as they can and to get new phone numbers. If there are children involved, he will hire security for the first couple of days.
Mr. Kurland tries to help his clients retain some privacy after they win, but if privacy is hard to achieve in 2019, anonymity is nearly impossible.
“It is very hard to participate in civil life and be anonymous,” Albert Gidari, the privacy director of the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School, said on Wednesday. “You can’t buy a car in cash and avoid disclosing who you are because now car dealers are financial institutions,” Mr. Gidari said, adding that it was nearly impossible to transfer money in and out of the United States without disclosing who you are to the government.
“He can get a lot of lawyers and accountants and figure out how to move and hide a lot of that money at great risk to himself for not complying with government reporting,” Mr. Gidari said. “You can’t get very far, but you can get far enough to get some degree of obscurity, even if you can’t get anonymity.”
Last year the winner of a $560 million Powerball jackpot in New Hampshire took the state to court to retain her anonymity while claiming her prize. The woman’s lawyers argued that she would be accosted with requests for money, and the state argued that lottery winners must be disclosed to make sure that winners are not related to lottery employees and that winnings are distributed fairly. The court decided disclosing the winner’s name would be an invasion of privacy and allowed the woman to anonymously claim her winnings.
“You want to be able to enjoy this crazy amount of money you luckily won, but at the same time you want to keep your privacy, so it’s a balance,” Mr. Kurland said.
But going off the grid, setting up shop on the beach and enjoying the fruits of your ticket are not necessarily possible without informing the government.
“If you leave the country, it’s worse,” Mr. Gidari said, adding that leaving the country and failing to report assets in the United States and abroad could lead to losing those assets.Some states allow the winners of large jackpots to remain anonymous, but is it ever possible to retain your privacy after a life-changing windfall?
She Won The $560 Million Powerball — And Immediately Regretted This
(Photo by Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
When this New Hampshire woman won the $560 million Powerball jackpot in January, she did what most people would do. She signed the back of her ticket.
But it almost cost her more than she bargained for.
Here’s what you need to know and what you should do if you’re fortunate enough to follow in her footsteps and win the lottery.
Step #1: Remain anonymous
If you win the lottery, your best bet is to remain anonymous.
With your newfound fortune, the last thing you want is to draw attention to your newfound fortune. Jane Doe (the Powerball winner whose name has not been disclosed) realized after she signed her winning lottery ticket that she wished to remain anonymous.
Typically, the choice to remain anonymous after you win the lottery may not be yours.
The rules regarding anonymity vary by state, with some states requiring all lottery winners to disclose their identity. Why?
Some lottery officials say they want transparency and to ensure that the winner is not related to a lottery official. Therefore, lottery commissions strive for transparency, and typically want winners to disclose their name, city and prize amount.
Remaining anonymous when you win the lottery can only be done in six U.S. states: Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio and South Carolina. The remaining states where Powerball is sold, including Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, require that winners publicly disclose their identity.
In New Hampshire, a lottery winner’s name, town and prize amount are publicly disclosed as part of the state’s “Right To Know” law.
However, Doe asked a state judge to grant her anonymity even though she signed her name on the back of the ticket and lives in a state that does not permit anonymity for lottery winners.
On Monday, Judge Charles Temple granted her request – to the objection of New Hampshire lottery officials who argued that revealing her identity increases transparency and trust in the lottery system in accordance with state rules. The judge ruled that revealing her name would constitute an invasion of privacy since lottery winners can face – according to Temple’s order – “repeated solicitation, harassment, and even violence.” The judge ruled, however, the winner had to reveal her town (Merrimack).
Step #2: Sign the winning lottery ticket
So, if you win the lottery and live in a state that does not guarantee anonymity, should you still sign the back of the ticket?
It may sound outdated, but you should always sign the back of a winning lottery ticket.
A lottery ticket is considered a bearer instrument, which means that whoever signs the ticket can claim the lottery winnings.
Therefore, if you lose an unsigned winning ticket, the person who find it legally can claim the prize.
The question then is what name do you sign on the back of the ticket – particularly if you want to remain anonymous.
You can accept a lottery prize through legal structures such as a blind trust that can protect your identity. In this case, the winner created the Good Karma Family 2018 Nominee Trust. Her lawyer, William Shaheen, accepted the lump sum prize of $352 million (approximately $264 million after taxes) on her behalf.
What’s the first thing she did with her new fortune? She donated almost $250,000 to charity – and has plans to donate up to $50 million. Way to make lemonade.
Zack Friedman is the bestselling author of the blockbuster book, THE LEMONADE LIFE. Apple named The Lemonade Life one of “Fall’s Biggest Audiobooks” and a “Must-Listen.”If you win the lottery, make sure to do this one thing. ]]>