Lottery and Inheritance FAQ

Welcome the FAQ page at We have tried to provide a number of answers to common questions below. Please understand that these answers might not apply to all persons in all situations. We expressly disclaim and offer no warranties, nor is any representation created by any action or inaction you may take with the advice on this page.

Lottery FAQ

I've won a lottery jackpot, what do I need to do?
In most situations,there are three main steps. Fill out and sign the back of the ticket. Make multiple copies of the front and back of the ticket and keep original in a safe location (like a safe-deposit box). Contact counsel.
How does the lottery process work?
The lottery winners verification and award process varies by jurisdiction and lottery commission. Some potential pitfalls include: payout options, ownership of winnings, legal entity payout choice, tax elections and payments, etc. It is best to have professional counsel walk you through the process.
Do I need to have an attorney to claim a jackpot?
In short, no. But why would you not want professional advice? In other words, why be cheap about one of the pinnacle decisions of your life?
Do I need to have local attorney or counsel?
No your counsel does not have to be local. And there are few reasons (we can think of) why you would want local counsel with large jackpot sizes. In fact most of our clients are not in our local area. Tip: You need to ensure that any counsel is appropriately licensed to solicit and provide the legal and/or financial advice in the jurisdiction you are, will be, or have a significant nexus with.
When do I have to pay the taxes on the lottery winnings?
Lottery winnings are taxable as income under federal IRS regs, and many state regs as well. In most circumstances, taxes are withheld up-front with a cash-value payout option, or from a payment for annual/monthly payout options. We always recommend speaking with your CPA or accountant before electing any tax payment option to make sure that all taxes (estimated or due) are satisfied.
Can I remain anonymous?
In short, probably not. Lottery winners are usually required to accept basic disclosures of personal information. This is primarily required to maintain the integrity of the lottery process (i.e. that some identifiable person/entity won and the lottery is not rigged). With that said, there legal and other ways to protect the identity of your property after the payout(s) is/are made.
Do I really get a big check? How is the payout made?
Whether you choose the cash-value or annual payout options, most of the time the transfer will be by direct deposit or wire. Another important reason for having counsel during this process is to ensure that the payout is deposited into specific types of bank or investment accounts set up to hold the high value dollar amounts to be received. You will also want to diversify that large payout rather quickly into small accounts. Our expertise in this area will be invaluable to helping you make those decisions.
How fast can I get my money?
The time to receive lottery winnings varies by jackpot size and lottery verification rules. Each lottery commission has a pre-defined set of verification rules. These rules usually involve multiple security checks to ensure the ticket is authentic, is a valid winning ticket, you are the appropriate winner, you are who you say you are, if you have any legal impediments to winning and receiving the winnings, and whether there are any competing or opposing claims. For smaller jackpots, it can be a week or less. For larger jackpots it could take a couple of weeks to months.


Inheritance FAQ

I am expecting a large inheritance. Can I do something now to prepare?
In short, absolutely! Assuming there will be an inheritance in the short term...there are legal documents that can be prepared beforehand (estate, marital, gifting, charitable, etc.), and financial plans that can be proposed and drafted, ready for funding.
Do I have to pay taxes on my inheritance?
It depends. It's first important to understand that there are a minimum of five federal taxes that are assessed against a Decedent's estate at death (or the resulting beneficiaries). Income, Estate, Gift, GST, and/or Capital Gains. Without going in to the complicated and technical rules on each, here's a quick summary. For life insurance proceeds, only estate taxes may be an issue. For stocks, bonds, real estate, and other capital assets, all taxes would be an issue. For annuities, income, estate, gift, or GST taxes may be an issue. For bank accounts, money market accounts, or certificates of deposit, income, estate, gift, or GST taxes may be an issue.
I was expecting an inheritance but I haven't received any thing yet?
You should check with the executor or trustee of the Estate and request required disclosures. If the executor/trustee refuses, then most jurisdictions allow you to request formal notification of whether you are in fact a beneficiary or not...and in what form or fashion.
Do I have to share my inheritance with my spouse?
Marital ownership of inheritance proceeds depends on your state's laws. In community property states, usually the inherited property are considered separate assets. In other states the marital property laws can vary but usually the inherited property is the sole property of the inheritor spouse.
I am one of multiple beneficiaries, and we are not in agreement.
This issue can be dealt with in several different ways. Very often, the executor/trustee has discretion to override beneficiary disputes. Also non pro rata distributions are common to help solve disputes. Lastly, many states have some form of a family or beneficiary settlement agreement option available. The trick is to make it unreasonable for everyone to lawyer up and make it a litigious and costly affair.
Are there any benefits to disclaiming some or all of my inheritance?
A disclaimer is a legal and irrevocable refusal to accept property. The property than passes to one or more contingent beneficiaries under the controlling instrument or law. Your decision to disclaim would normally depend on who those contingent beneficiaries are and whether there are significant tax or other benefits that can be derived from the disclaimer.
I want income from my inheritance...what do I do?
In our experience, most beneficiaries want cash or income instead of hard assets. If you have the same needs, we have unique tools available to provide liquidity from hard assets.
I am having trouble with the executor or trustee. What can I do?
This is a complicated question...and there are an even more complicated set of answers. Executors (probate) or Trustees (trust administration) are fiduciaries and are serving at the behest of the Decedent for the benefit of the beneficiaries. Therefore they owe beneficiaries (and perhaps others) certain duties and disclosures. If you think that the executor/trustee is not acting appropriately, it is best to seek the advice of counsel. That counsel will be able to walk you through your legal and other options.