The Mega Millions jackpot is soaring and is the second-largest lottery prize in U.S. history. The odds of winning that jackpot are pretty dismal, one in 302.5 million, but someone will match all six numbers eventually.
Jason Kurland, the self-proclaimed “lottery lawyer,” hates office lottery pools.
If it’s not the worker who puts a buck in every week except the winning week, it’s the colleague who bought the winning ticket for himself moments after buying the office pool tickets, which were duds. (“They’ll never believe you,” Kurland scoffed.) And don’t get him started on 20 people and their 20 lawyers trying to decide on how to receive and divide a jackpot.
But if you’re still tempted by the office pool, “make a copy of all the tickets and have something in writing,” he said Wednesday.
Kurland represents the 42-year-old Staten Island man who won a $245 million Powerball prize in August 2018, as well as the 81-year-old Newport, R.I., woman who scored the $336 million Powerball jackpot in March 2012 and the three Greenwich, Conn., bankers who claimed the $254 million Powerball prize in November 2011.
“It’s a unique niche I have and I love it,” said Kurland, who is a 1998 graduate of Skidmore College and now practices on Long Island. He’s well aware that this week, of all weeks, his skills may come in handy.
The Mega Millions jackpot is now up to $970 million, the second-largest lottery prize in U.S. history. The odds of winning that jackpot are pretty dismal, one in 302.5 million, but someone will match all six numbers eventually.
The next drawing is Friday night. Here’s what to do if you win:
Sign the darn thing.
“You need to sign it,” Kurland said. A lottery ticket is a “bearer instrument,” meaning whoever turns it in to the lottery commission with their signature on it gets the cash, he said.
Once the ticket is signed, Kurland suggests making a copy and then putting the original in a safe place _ preferably a fireproof and waterproof safe or a safety deposit box.
Keep your mouth shut.
“Tell as few people as possible,” Kurland said, adding that winners shouldn’t come forward until they are ready.
“It will be a few weeks before you have all your ducks in a row,” he said.
Assemble your team.
Kurland recommends hiring an attorney right away, followed by a financial adviser and an accountant. “Hire an experienced lottery lawyer, someone who can coach you through it,” he said.
A lawyer will explain how to answer media questions, who should come forward to represent the family, how a winner should receive the money and more, he said. A financial adviser will help plan out investments and an accountant will take care of the taxes.
Don’t expect to stay anonymous.
“In New York, you can’t be anonymous, but you can claim the prize as a trust,” Kurland said. “It limits your exposure somewhat.”
The New York Lottery releases winners’ names and requires them to appear at a news conference, he said. But a winner can ask that the check be written out to a trust with a more generic name.
Two of Kurland’s previous clients created the Putnam Avenue Family Trust and the Sea and Sand Trust. The winners are the beneficiaries.
Get out of town.
Kurland recommends that his clients leave for a vacation as soon as their lottery press conference is over. That way, they miss the media camped outside their home and won’t be there to answer the door when long-lost friends show up asking for cash.
“By the time you get back, hopefully things will have died down,” he said.
Learn to say no.
Another task a lawyer can handle for a winner is screening all the requests for money they’ll inevitably get.
“We act as the bad guy, whether it’s friends, families or charities,” Kurland said. “They get calls from everyone and they get referred to me.”
His team verifies the authenticity of the request and then goes to the winner to see if they’d like to organize a one-time gift.
Otherwise, Kurland said, “that’s how you lose it too quickly.”
emasters(at)timesunion.com – 518-454-5467 – Twitter: (at)emilysmasters