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May 20, 2013

Did you just win $590M? Get a good team in place

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. —

So you have a lottery ticket worth $590.5 million. Now what?

If you won Saturday's historic Powerball jackpot and you haven't already done so, sign the ticket. Now.

Finished? Now call a lawyer — even before your spouse if things are a little shaky on that front. Next you'll need a financial adviser, an accountant and a therapist.

The Associated Press asked more than 20 personal financial advisers how the winner should proceed, and they agreed it's crucial to assemble a team of advisers who can be trusted. Chances are the winner wasn't mega-rich before, so it's hard to know what to expect.

"You don't need a financial planner immediately, because you don't have the check in your hand. You need the lawyer before you need the financial planner because you've got to get all the necessary legal work done as quickly as possible," said Stuart Goldberg, a Tallahassee-based estate and tax lawyer. That can include creating a trust fund, shoring up a will, getting advice on how best to claim the money so the government gets less of it and discussing who else might try to claim they're entitled to a share. "If you collect the ticket while you're married and your wife immediately files for divorce, does she get half?"

The winning ticket was bought at a Publix supermarket in Zephyrhills, a city of about 13,000 that's 30 miles northeast of downtown Tampa. The winner has 60 days to claim the biggest jackpot in Powerball history if they choose a lump sum payment. Under Florida law, the person can't remain anonymous.

No one had come forward to claim the prize on Monday, and lottery officials said they were expecting the person to wait at least a few days.

Experts say the winner should thoroughly vet whoever's on their team of advisers. And while the first call may be to an attorney or financial planner who's a friend or relative, such acquaintances may not be best capable of dealing with that kind of money. They can, though, give advice on where to go next.

"For that kind of money, I would certainly want a well-known reputable group, not cousin Bernie who has a securities company down the road," Goldberg said.

Ginger Snyder, vice president of investments for The 360 Wealth Management Group of Raymond James in Tampa, agreed that the lawyer should be the first hire and should be present for subsequent talks with a financial planner.

"Once everything is calmed down, as an adviser I would treat them just like any other client that I have. It's a little different because obviously it's sudden wealth," Snyder said. "I would have to assume that this is going to be a lot more money than they have currently, so I would talk to them what their goals might be and what relationships are important to them."

Many advisers said to avoid high-risk investments and opt for lower yielding but more secure investments. Even the most conservative investment should yield at least a 3 percent return. Considering the lump sum payment could be as high as $277.5 million after taxes, the winner could live off $8.3 million in interest per year without touching the winnings.

Among other advice: The winner should change his or her phone number and email address and give the new ones out only to those who need it. Once one's identity is revealed, there will be plenty of people offering their financial services — not all of whom have pure motives.

"Do a Google search on all the lottery winners who squandered it or became miserable," said Buz Livingston, a Santa Rosa Beach-based financial adviser.

Of course, many people, family and friends included, will want money.

"Hire someone to deal with all of the solicitations including those from family and friends. If anyone asks you for anything you can simply tell them they have to contact Mr./Ms. X," said Jennifer Hartman, a Los Angeles-based financial adviser.

Among the most notorious tales of a lottery winner's misfortune was West Virginia's Jack Whittaker, who won $315 million in 2002. Five years later, he blamed the money for causing his granddaughter's fatal drug overdose, his divorce and hundreds of lawsuits filed against him. He said he couldn't trust many of his friends and relatives.

Even more modest prizes can come with problems. A woman was convicted late last year of slaying Florida lottery winner Abraham Shakespeare, who won a $30 million jackpot in 2006. Prosecutors say the woman befriended him, became his financial adviser and swindled him out of his dwindling fortune before killing him.

The advisers say there's nothing wrong with some modest splurges. But the winner shouldn't rush out and buy a new house before considering how this change will affect them, said Eric Lewis, the chief investment officer at Bedrock Capital Management, Inc. in Los Altos, Calif.

"Satisfy your urge to splurge, prudently. Take a small portion of the winnings and spend it on a few things or experiences you've always wanted. A new car, a big TV, a fancy vacation, a great bottle of wine, etc.," Lewis said. "With the exception of a modest splurge, force yourself to chill out regarding spending your new wealth. You'll get more satisfaction from the money, and it will be more likely to last, if you take the time to reflect on what you want from your new lifestyle."

Several said a therapist should also be on the list of people to consult.

"You need a plan, and it should include some kind of counseling. You can have the best lawyers and everything, but it goes to people's heads," said Goldberg. "Lottery winners have ended up in divorce, bankruptcy, suicide because they don't know what to do and how to handle the money."

 

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