Recently, the Mega Millions lottery jackpot reached $1.6 billion.  Congrats to the winner!!!!  But what should you do when you find out you REALLY are the winner?  Pass out from the shock of suddenly becoming a multi-millionaire overnight?  Call your employer and proudly state, “I quit!”?  Hopefully not die of a heart attack from the shock of winning?

One of the first things you should do, even before appearing at the lottery office to submit your ticket and claim for payment, should be to assemble a team of legal and financial advisers. In situations like this it's very hard to know who's trying to help you and who's trying to use you.  Lots of money attracts the good, the bad and the ugly.  Rather than signing on to a group of advisors that someone else has put together, I believe handpicking your own lawyer, accountant and investment advisor, and requiring them to work together is best.  In doing so, be sure to vet each advisor before discussing your situation. Financial broker records exist at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. For attorneys and insurance agents, see whether there have been any complaints filed with state disciplinary authorities.

Perhaps you don't want lawyers in your town to know your business.  That is fair enough.  What to do in that regard?  Seek out a professional in the nearest large city. Names can be found on @, the nationwide lawyers’ directory that you can search by location and area of practice, and on the Web site of the  @American College of Trust and Estate Counsel @ a group of trust and estate lawyers.

In effect, your team of advisors will function as your own board of directors with you being the chairman.  How nice does that sound!!!  You can start by having a fee-only advisor put together a long-term financial plan and running it by the team for comment. Once you've decided on a plan, they can provide checks and balances on each other. You can ask one of them (perhaps your legal advisor) to serve as quarterback, coordinating the group effort. Your legal advisor can also play the "bad guy," declining requests from people or organizations for gifts that you don't want to make.

Big picture suggestions should include obtaining immediate tax advice on whether to take your winnings in a lump sum or to be paid out over a period of years, consideration for prudent investments, living within a budget, paying off any debt, protecting your assets since you are now wealthy, perhaps consider setting up charitable gifts, reviewing or creating an estate plan, and many more considerations.

With money comes responsibility, not only for yourself but for your family as well.  If you win the next Mega Millions lottery, take a deep breath, say a prayer of thanks, and move forward with wisdom and generosity.   YOU’RE A WINNER!!!


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