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There is a chance that at least a few people in 2020 will be far richer than most of us.
With no ticket matching all six numbers drawn in Mega Millions on Tuesday, the jackpot for the Friday night drawing rose to $ 401 million. Powerball’s grand prize is not far behind at $ 363 million for the Wednesday night draw.
If you’re lucky enough to be the next big winner, experts say that part of protecting your windfall is protecting your identity when you can.
“Four hundred million dollars would attract a lot [attention]”said Attorney Kurt Panouses, founder of the Panouses Law Group in Indialantic, Florida and an expert in helping lottery winners.
Keeping your win calm will protect you from strangers and scammers who want a part of the prize.
However, states don’t always make data protection easy: only a handful allow winners to remain completely anonymous. In other cases, you may be able to claim the award through a trust or limited liability company or LLC that does not have your name on it. However, you need to plan for this.
Here are tips for big lottery winners trying to protect their privacy.
Handling your ticket
The standard advice is to sign the back of your ticket. However, if you find yourself in a state where a trust or LLC can claim the prize, hold back with this signature if privacy is important to you.
“Of course you want to protect the ticket, but whatever name is on the back of the ticket is identified as the payee,” said Panouses. “The back of the ticket is important for data protection reasons.”
In most states, he said, if you use an LLC or trust to claim the money, you can bypass disclosing your name.
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Panousas said he has also created trusts whose beneficiaries are sub-trusts instead of the winners. This adds an extra layer of data protection.
While you might want to share your exciting news, experts say the fewer people know, the better.
“Keep the circle of people who don’t know or tell anyone about it,” said Panouses.
For example, if you are claiming the profit in conjunction with other family members, i.e. through a trust or LLC as a joint prize, then all parties involved should sign non-disclosure agreements, Panouses said.
In addition to choosing experienced professionals to help you tackle the windfall, it may also be wise to avoid the professionals in your hometown if you are concerned about the news that your profits will be lost.
“Someone in this office might say, ‘Oh, this is the lottery winner,'” Panouses said. He relies on a large investment and trust company that has a proven record of serving wealthy households.
“If I open accounts with them, I know the information won’t be made public,” said Panouses.
Plan an escape
Skipping town a bit after claiming your prize is probably a good idea.
“We make sure the winners have a plan to go somewhere for a week or so after they claim,” Panouses said. “When people find out you won, they may show up at your home.”
It’s also worth changing the cell phone number, he said. If you have a landline, this should also be changed.
You may also want to close your social media accounts if you cannot remain anonymous.