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?
How the winners of New York Lottery’s biggest jackpot were able to stay anonymous
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The winners of the largest-ever New York Lottery jackpot have pulled off the even more historic feat of collecting their checks anonymously — by following the advice of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The group of 23 Long Island coworkers scored the Mega Millions’ eye-watering New Year’s Day jackpot of $437 million, lottery officials revealed Tuesday.
But like so many winners before them, the lucky Long Islanders didn’t want their names out there for vultures, and hired local attorney Eric Jaffe to help them out.
He learned that Cuomo had just vetoed a bill that would have let lottery winners stay incognito — but had also mentioned a loophole.
“If a person wishes to remain anonymous, the law already allows for such a scenario,” Cuomo wrote when nixing the legislation.
“For the past 40 years, individuals wishing to keep their name and information out of the public view have created LLCs to collect their winnings for them.”
The governor’s remark seemed like “an afterthought,” Jaffe told The Post — but they ran with it, and it worked.
“The triggering factor was Gov. Cuomo’s specific statement that you could form an LLC,” he said. “So going on that language and some history [of other cases], they opted to form the LLC.”
The winners claimed their prize as New Life 2019 LLC in January, and the moolah came through last week, he said.
Co-workers revealed as winners of New York Lottery’s biggest jackpot
They opted to take a lump-sum payment of $262,213,914 — $176,155,308 after state and federal withholding, or around $7.7 million per person.
Lottery officials — who prefer to trumpet their big winners with photos and giant novelty checks — were “very nice” about the group staying under wraps, Jaffe said.
“It’s not their preference — they’re in the business of PR and they want your picture holding up the big check,” he said.
What Jaffe would reveal about the newly minted millionaires is that they all work for a retail business in the “Nassau to west-end Suffolk” area with fewer than 50 employees that is “not a chain or a big store.”
The winners are “salt of the earth … working-class folks,” Jaffe said, and many are planning on keeping their jobs.
“No one’s acting crazy, they’re getting good financial advice. There’s a long history of lotto winners going bankrupt. They’re scared straight about that,” he said.
“I know they want to travel and pay off mortgages but no one wants to buy the Yankees.”
A worker at Brookville Auto Service Shop in Glen Head, where the winning ticket was sold, said it was bought by a woman in her 60s who’s been coming in every Sunday for more than three years.
“My boss told me I sell the ticket. And I’m waiting for the day whoever win comes back and tips me. Write it down, my friend,” said Niz Aydrogan, 53.
The store will receive $10,000 from the New York Lottery for selling the ticket.The winners of the largest-ever New York Lottery jackpot have pulled off the even more historic feat of collecting their checks anonymously — by following the advice of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. ]]>