More money, more problems. Many people believe winning the lottery will solve their problems, but taking home a large jackpot can bring an outpouring of requests for money from friends, relatives, charities and complete strangers. Websites devoted to lottery winners, and dreams of winning the lottery, bemoan the lack of privacy afforded the lucky few. In most states, lottery winners are named publicly, which states like Pennsylvania say helps maintain the integrity and transparency of the games. In other words, everyone wants to make sure that the lottery isn't keeping the money for itself. In a few places, you may be able to form a trust to shield your identity from the prying eyes of friends, relatives and the news media.
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Keep quiet. You may be tempted, according to the website for MegaMillions, but you may regret announcing your winnings to anyone. Do not contact lottery officials, do not tell your friends. Once the euphoria dies down, you may be left with "a continuous stream of lawsuits and requests for money from those who want a piece of your win."
Copy the front and back of your lottery ticket. Place the copy -- not the original -- of your ticket in an envelope. Send it to yourself in a sealed envelope, preferably by certified mail. Do not open the envelope when it comes. File it away in a safe place. You are doing this to prevent the theft of your ticket, and to provide proof that the ticket is yours in the event that it is stolen. Put the original in a fireproof safe or safe deposit box. You may have up to a year to claim your prize, and you might need that time to contact investment professionals and advisers.
Contact a lawyer who specialises in asset protection and estate planning. Explain that you have won the lottery and ask about options for anonymity. Some states, like Delaware, allow winners to claim prizes anonymously. Ask whether you can form a trust to claim the lottery prize. If you cannot form a trust in your state, and you won a multi-state lottery, ask if you can claim the prize in another state. Forming a trust can be extremely complicated, and a lawyer must do it.
Follow your lawyer's instructions. This is the hard part. If you are successful in forming a trust to claim your prize, your lawyer may take the lottery ticket to the lottery office. Aren't you glad you copied the ticket?
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