Lottery mania has gripped our country’s attention lately. I have met several lottery winners in my career, and I have represented some. If you win the lottery, these are some steps to consider.
First, protect the ticket. You must possess the physical ticket to claim the prize, so keep the ticket safe. Immediately deliver the ticket to a bank safety deposit box.
Second, keep a picture of the ticket. This will allow the ticket’s winning numbers to be confirmed without risking loss of the physical ticket. It will also allow you to “re-check” the ticket if you remain in shock prior to the money being placed into your account.
Third, consult attorneys and accountants to establish rules (trusts and other resources) for the money you will receive and to establish other structures to protect you from unscrupulous money-seekers who will inevitably want to win a lottery from you.
Fourth, organize an advisory committee of family, trusted friends and professionals who can help you to keep your feet on the ground. Lottery winners, like professional athletes and other people who go from “rags to riches” quickly, can find themselves ill-equipped to handle the responsibilities of managing more money than they had ever imagined.
For example, I have two nieces who seldom drank a lot of soft drinks as toddlers. Of course, when at my house when I babysat for them, I provided my nieces with unlimited Mountain Dew, Coke and orange pop. Once they were presented with the freedom that I presented, they would almost always over-indulge… sometimes three or four cans in a couple hours.
The same recklessness can happen to us adults when we invest a lifetime sacrificing and saving and then suddenly find ourselves with what can seem like unlimited wealth.
As for us people who do not win an official financial lottery, the financial, family, social and religious blessings that each of us have are more valuable than $1.6 billion. We all have blessings that exceed the value of money. In my trips abroad, I have found that many people in many countries would feel like they had won the lottery if they had a car or if they had food for every meal or if they always had electricity or running water.
As a result, non-money-lottery winners should also protect their equivalent of lottery tickets, which include savings, investments, houses, businesses and personal property by investing in responsible insurance and establishing entities such as LLCs.
Second, non-money-lottery winners should also keep track of what they have. A person cannot be a good steward of blessings if those blessings are not recognized, organized and monitored.
Third, non-money-lottery winners should consult with attorneys and accountants to establish rules (trusts and other resources) to protect the money and other assets earned throughout life.
And, fourth, non-money-lottery winners should create an advisory committee of friends, family and professionals who can help prepare for unexpected aspects of life, such as needing long-term healthcare and other uncomfortable yet inevitable life events like the loss of loved ones.
Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. He can be reached at Lee@LeeSchroeder.com or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.