Thursday, March 12, 2015

And the winner is… (Here’s what you have to look forward to.)

Like most every other red-blooded American with a buck in her pocket and greed in her gut, I have been known to play the lottery.

Oh, I’m not obsessive about it. I don’t have a regular number. But once in a while, I slap down a few on Powerball, Megabucks and Mega Millions.

I think that the most I have ever won is seven dollars
But when the jackpot is big, I enjoy a couple of days “what if” fantasizing. So when I pluck down my cash in exchange for a quick-pick, what I’m really buying is not a chance at riches, but the experience of running ‘hey, big spender’ scenarios through my head for a bit.

Should I end up with a lucky day, I pretty much have it all planned out, starting with a call to my lawyer, followed up by an e-mail that contains my wish list on how the money will be distributed.
Breadth of dispersion and magnitude of the largesse contingent on the size of the jackpot. Sorry, folks, winning a couple hundred thou, paid out over 20 years, is not going to be divvied up that far and wide. Still, it’s fun playing around with the Lady Bountiful idea, which has intrigued me since I was a kid watching Michael Anthony distribute the fortune of John Beresford Tipton on the old B&W TV show, The Millionaire. (Remember when “millionaire” meant rich?)

Then I read a rather sobering article in Forbes on the perils of lottery winning.

Sure, I”d read enough accounts about folks who won a lot of money and pissed it completely away. And I understand that there are plenty of hard luck cases (and/or scam artists) who come out of the woodwork when someone wins, making personal GoFundMe pleas. But it hadn’t occurred to m ethat you might be plagued by claimants.

Ah, but such is the litigious society we live in. And such is the allure of free money.
And, so, a cautionary tale, in which, not only does the taxman take his bit, but friends, family, co-workers, and even the guy who sold you the ticket, may have their lawyer call your lawyer, looking for their payday. After all, you promised.

A woman in California won a relatively paltry $1M prize.
Eva Reyes is the winner, but the owner of the liquor Store where she bought the ticked has sued. Laxmi Bhardwaj owns USA Liquors in Milpitas, California, where Ms. Reyes bought the ticket. The store owner claims Ms. Reyes promised to split the money—$350,000 each after taxes—for fronting the money to buy the tickets.
The plaintiff claims there is a signed note guaranteeing him half the winnings. But Ms. Reyes claims the deal was for $50,000, not half. The terms of the note are sketchy, with just the dollar amount and a signature, according to Ms. Reyes. (Source: Forbes)
Well, Ms. Reyes, that’ll show you not to a) borrow money to buy lottery tickets; and b) make sure you don’t leave any room between the $ and the 50 when you sign a promissory note. It goes without saying that a 50 percent payback on this sort of loan is truly outrageous. Even the $50K payout is a bit steep. I suggest that Ms. Reyes put some of her winnings towards a negotiations skills class.
As for Laxmi Bhardwaj. Tsk, tsk, tsk on all fronts. This is just not a happy-dappy business scene any way you look at it.

Since my guess is that few people actually borrow money from their lottery ticket seller in order to buy their tickets, this scenario is not likely to crop up that often. And don’t the retailers get a cut, anyway?

Mostly, it’s people you know looking for their scratch of your scratch.

The bigger the prize, the bigger the downside, with the number of co-workers, family and friends who remember that you promised to split it with them increases in direct proportion to the size of the payout. After all, these miffed co-workers, family, and friends were going to split their winnings with you if they’d won. Miff. Miff. Miff. (The only lottery winner I know is a friend’s husband who played joint tickets with co-workers. They ended up with a cool million. And speaking of cool million, when she was dying, my mother – who wasn’t much of a lottery player – uttered the words “Cool Millions. Cool Millions.” shortly before she died.

Thinking that Liz’s Rosebud moment might mean that she had a winning “Cool Millions” ticket in her possession, we did look around a bit.

After my mother died, my sisters and I went through all her many pockets, and all her many pocketbooks, before we brought them over to the St. Vincent de Paul shop. Alas, we did not find any tickets, winning or otherwise. Perhaps we missed something, and someone at the St. Vinnie d’s thrift shop got lucky. Of maybe it was in the jacket pocket of her favorite Pendleton suit. If so, it went with her to her grave.

By the way, I will say that one of the best thing about my sibs is that, if we had won anything, we would have split it even-steven, no complaining, no law suiting…That said, we issue blanket advice that those bringing lottery tickets as their Yankee Swap bring relatively low award amount scratch tickets. We don’t want any scenes…
The problem with these lawsuits – just in case your sibs are not as clear-thinking and good-hearted as mine – is that they’re costly, and you may not be able to deduct the lawyers fees as a cost to go against your winnings. (I believe you can deduct the cost of the lottery ticket itself, along with any gambling losses.)

The best advice is to consult with a tax attorney before you call the lottery with the B-I-N-G-O news.
That’s what I’ll be doing (if nothing else, to have someone appear before the cameras for me).
In the meantime, I have just two words for you: Cool Millions.

You heard it here!

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