In case you haven’t noticed, the jackpot for the upcoming Mega Millions drawing exceeds $600 million. And if that’s not enough, the jackpot for the upcoming Powerball drawing is only a relatively paltry $550 million. While obtaining such a fortune may seem like a dream come true, such an amount comes with a great deal of responsibility. In order to best handle your new fortune, and not fall victim to it, focus on the following items:

The first step is to secure the winning ticket either in a safe deposit box or other location where you retain your most valuable items. Next, resist the temptation to let your friends and extended family members know of your windfall. Then, hire a competent, trusted attorney (not to brag, but Greenspoon Marder has plenty of those) who can help navigate you through all the following important issues.

  1. Consider claiming the lottery ticket in a trust or limited liability company in order to preserve your individual anonymity
  • If you create a trust or limited liability company to claim your winning ticket, your identity will be preserved because the trust/limited liability company (as opposed to you) will be identified in public records as being the winner.
  • You may need to assign the winning ticket into the trust before you claim your prize. This can also help you avoid a substantial estate or gift tax bill.
  1. Create an estate plan!
  • If you don’t already have an estate plan in effect, now is the time to do so in order to ensure that your heirs (and other intended beneficiaries) will be the persons who enjoy your wealth after you pass away (as well as during your lifetime).
  • One advantage of creating a trust to hold your wealth is that it will avoid the probate process after your death.
  • If you already have an existing estate plan, now is the time to work with your attorney to reflect your vastly improved economic status.
  1. Tax planning
  • Avoid paying almost half of your winnings in taxes by implementing creative tax planning strategies.
  • Explore how to minimize income taxes by maximizing deductions or creating a tax-exempt organization.
  • Additionally, discuss with your attorney how to avoid inheritance and generation-skipping transfer taxes, and to determine the best way to “gift” money to loved ones.
  1. Asset preservation
  • Congratulations, now that you have millions upon millions in the bank, you are now more susceptible to lawsuits (whether they be legitimate or frivolous)!
  • People who you thought were your friends may not be so friendly anymore.
  • If you are married, tread carefully so your spouse is not given cause to disrupt your current family dynamic, such as filing for divorce. Creating a trust to hold your winnings can provide “divorce-proofing” features.
  1. Accepting your winnings as either a lump sum or in installments
  • Lump sum
    • If you accept the winnings as a lump sum, you will immediately owe income tax on the entire amount of your winnings. Think of it as the IRS congratulating you on your (and now, their) good fortune.
    • Risks involved with a lump sum payment include (a) higher risk of mismanagement of funds; and (b) lower overall payout.
    • You will also need to manage your money on a scale with which you likely aren’t familiar. However, if you plan wisely and seek legal, financial and tax advice, you can avoid many of the common pitfalls of winning the lottery.
  • Installments
  • Each payment you receive will be individually taxed.
  • With this option, you do not have to worry about managing a large fortune.
  • If you pass away before the annuity period expires, however, your family will have to pay the estate tax on their inheritance – a large amount that they likely do not have on hand.
  • Additionally, this option can ultimately impact the total amount of money that you ultimately bring home.
  • Risks involved with installments include (a) issues that might occur upon your death; and (b) no way to obtain the remainder of your entitled amount ahead of time.
  1. Grow your winnings by investing wisely
  • Many lottery winners eventually lose everything, usually by investing poorly or trusting bad business partners.
  • Meet with an experienced and trusted financial planner to assess what investments are worthwhile and which are scams.

Additionally, determine the appropriate amount of money to invest so it doesn’t include an amount that exceeds your co