Illinois Lottery Winners Could Receive Anonymity
Tuesday April 17 th 2018
Lottery winners in Illinois could soon be allowed to maintain their anonymity in proposed changes put forward by the state’s lawmakers. Under the new laws, any player who wins a jackpot of over $250,000 playing lottery games such as Powerball, Mega Millions and Illinois Lotto would have the option to choose anonymity if they so wish.
Under the present ‘Right to Know’ law in America, a jackpot winner’s name, town and prize winnings must be made available for public information in any lottery game.
However, there are currently six American states that are exceptions to the rule, allowing jackpot winners to keep their anonymity if they wish to do so, regardless of which game they play. Those states are Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio and South Carolina.
Deciding whether to stay private or opt for publicity is a big decision that players from these states must make soon after landing the jackpot, and there are arguments for and against going down the anonymity route.
Moreover, some states – including Colorado, Connecticut and Massachusetts – allow players to claim their winnings anonymously through a trust to protect the name of the ticket holder.
If the proposed changes in Illinois go through, jackpot winners of over $250,000 will have a similar dilemma to resolve.
The suggested changes for Illinois were presented by State Senator Laura Murphy earlier this month. She had her bill accepted 12-1 at the Senate Gaming Committee, outlining that a jackpot winner would have to contact the state’s Lottery director to be granted anonymity.
So, as The Prairie State could become the next state to grant jackpot winners anonymity (for winnings over $250,000), should players stay anonymous or should they go public?
Why Remain Anonymous?
There are several reasons why lottery winners might prefer to opt for anonymity. Primarily, lottery winners who have amassed a recent windfall can be subjected to scams, fraud, bankruptcy and criminal activity when their details are released into the public domain. Staying private with winnings can make it much harder for winners to fall victim to these dealings, protecting their privacy as well as the wellbeing of their family and close friends.
Additionally, choosing anonymity can stop winners receiving unwanted attention from strangers, close acquaintances and distant connections. When a lottery winner suddenly possesses a substantial fortune, existing relationships can change overnight, including with family and friends. People may look at you differently if they know how much money you’ve received, and you could start receiving messages from strangers begging for money.
Why Go Public?
One advantage of going public after a significant lottery win – such as $250,000 – is that winners don’t have to keep details to themselves and continue putting up a front to hide their news.
Going public offers winners more freedom to speak to family and friends about their new-found fortune, because they don’t have anything to hide and aren’t trying to keep a low profile after keeping their identity private. The secrecy of anonymity can put a strain on winners, which means some might struggle to enjoy their winnings as much as they should.
Lottery winners who go public traditionally take part in a formal press conference and a photoshoot to promote their jackpot win and the lottery game they played. Although winners are in the public spotlight at the time of the win, they don’t stay in the limelight forever. Things do eventually calm down, allowing public winners to return to their relatively normal lives.
Furthermore, even if players choose anonymity, this doesn’t mean that their identity may not be leaked and revealed later down the line, so it may be better to just be open and honest about your winnings right from the off.
Finally, putting a face to the name of winners adds legitimacy to American lotteries like Powerball, Mega Millions and Illinois Lotto, as it shows that the money spent by players does in fact go towards the jackpot amounts. If no details of winners are revealed to the public, these games might see a decrease in ticket sales, as players can’t relate to the anonymous winners coming forward.
A recent anonymity case involving a New Hampshire Powerball winner was well documented, as January’s jackpot winner of $559.7m – only known as “Jane Doe” – went to court in a bid to keep her identity anonymous. She expressed significant concern over her safety if her name was made public and wanted “the freedom to walk into a grocery store or attend public events without being known or targeted as the winner of half-billion dollars.”
Examples like this show that the proposed changes in Illinois could be welcomed by lottery players across the United States who, in the event of a big win, wouldn’t want to face the pressure of going public.
Lottery winners in the state of Illinois could be allowed to maintain anonymity playing games such as Powerball, Mega Millions and Illinois Lotto.
Hopes of Winning the Lottery? Here’s How to Stay Anonymous
What is more fun than imagining everything you can do with lottery winnings? Obviously winning the lottery and having that sudden inflow of cash would make life pretty exciting! If you were to win, suddenly managing money can be complicated especially with your friends and relatives asking for loans or gifts. Before we go through the steps of keeping your winnings confidential, first you need to sign and secure the winning ticket in a safe or lockbox.
Lawyers, Accountants, Planners and More
Each lottery has a deadline for when you must claim your prize, so time is on your side before you go on a spending spree. Before you rush straight to the lottery office, hire a few advisors such as an attorney, accountant, trust officer, etc. to learn about your options and what may be best in your situation. A trust officer can assist in the decision between taking the annuity payment option or taking a lump-sum payment, which will have tax and estate planning consequences this professional and an accountant can offer insight. A lawyer knowledgeable with estate planning can help draft paperwork for a lottery trust, where you can hire a trustee to help manage your winnings at your direction.
Why Might You Like a Lottery Trust? Anonymity, Avoiding Costs, or Expertise
When your winning numbers come in, it is time to be prepared. If your state gives out the names of lottery winners (as does Illinois), you are advised to stay out of the public eye as long as possible, or at least until you have a way to protect your money. While lottery winners can be found to be as unlucky as they are lucky with people asking for money or complexities that come with excessive wealth, the natural preference is to remain anonymous. While this is not easy, a lottery trust can be of great assistance.
Establishing a lottery trust can be done through a blind trust, revocable trust, or some other legal entity which can help avoid potential problems. While drawing up a trust, you must appoint a trustee who is the person responsible for managing the assets and making payments to beneficiaries and the IRS as instructed in the document. You can serve as the trustee, or you can have a professional, such as a trust department in a bank, carry this out. A professional will help protect your privacy as well as give additional insight and expertise. The main goal for setting up a separate trust or entity is to keep funds separate and conflicts to a minimum. While not everyone will need or want a new trust to manage their winnings, here are a few options you can think through:
In all but a few states, the law prohibits lottery winners from remaining anonymous. If you win big, long lost relatives may come asking for a loan of some type, or friends may ask for a small gift. If you establish a blind trust to claim the winnings, no one will know of your winnings unless you tell them. A blind trust is one where you are not involved in the day-to-day management or decisions. You gift your winning ticket to the trust, the trust then claims the winnings and invests the funds, without your input, in the most appropriate way possible. Since the winner isn’t involved in the decisions or investment management, it is best to appoint someone knowledgeable enough to handle these. This trust will keep everything confidential, and your attorney will tell you if a blind trust is an option in your state.
Also known as a living trust, placing funds into this type of trust will help the assets avoid probate when the lottery winner passes away. The trust is a separate entity, which the winner is still in control, which helps keeps funds separate. These trusts typically have the winners name and social security attached, so it is advisable to think through what a name could be along with applying for a separate Employer Identification number when creating this trust.
If you won the lottery along with some co-workers or other individuals, some other sort of entity might be in order, rather than a revocable trust. Depending on the rules of the particular lottery, only one entity may be eligible for the winnings. This may take the form of a general partnership, limited liability corporation, or a revocable or irrevocable trust. Unlike a revocable trust, the terms of an irrevocable trust cannot be changed, which makes sense if there are several parties involved. Irrevocable trusts allow the funds to be dispersed to each of the winners in the pool without having to simply rely on a single winner’s honesty (while avoiding the tax consequences of transferring the winnings to multiple parties). And since it may not be revoked or altered, it helps prevent future disputes among the parties.
First National Bank and Trust can help with all aspects of life, from buying your first home to managing your lottery winnings. Consider us to be a trusted resource for you and your family. The peace of mind that comes from having a one-stop-shop for all things financial planning is priceless.
Matt Riley was named Fiduciary Officer and VP for First National Bank and Trust Company in December 2018, helping clients to meet their prosperity goals through investment and estate planning. Prior to joining FNBT, Matt had risk and compliance analysis experience at State Farm Bank in Bloomington, Ill. Matt is a proud Illinois State University Alumni, receiving his B.S. in Finance with an emphasis in Financial Planning. He has continued his education journey, earning other designations including the Chartered Financial Consultant designation. In addition to his bank service, Matt became a member of the Clinton Rotary Club in April of 2019 and became a board member for the Warner Hospital & Health Services Foundation in May of 2019.
About First National Bank and Trust Co: First National Bank & Trust Company is a community bank located in Clinton, Illinois. Dedicated to community prosperity, the bank was chartered in 1872 under the name DeWitt County National Bank. The name was changed First National Bank and Trust Company in 1974, and was acquired by TS Banking Group in 2017. With $186 million in assets, First National Bank is dedicated to community reinvestment and gives 10% of its net income back to the community. For more information visit firstnbtc.com.
* Investment products are: Not a Deposit, Not FDIC Insured, Not Insured by any Federal Government Agency, Not Guaranteed by the Bank, May Go Down in Value
Have you ever dreamt of winning the lottery?! First National Bank and Trust can help with all aspects of life, from buying your first home to managing your lottery winnings.