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Future lottery winner wants to remain anonymous

Dear Lawyer Mark: I am going to win the lottery this weekend. I bought my tickets, and I can feel it in my bones. My problem is that I have a big family here, and even though I’ll give them some of it, I don’t want them to know that I’m going to win, because I guarantee they will never leave me alone afterwards, not to mention all the new friends that I never knew I had.

Every time I Google it, it says that Ohio is one of the few states that lets someone claim their prize anonymously, but I can’t find anything that says how to do it. My question is how do I claim the lottery winnings without people knowing it’s me? — Inquiring in Ironton

Dear Inquiring: Kudos to you for asking for free legal advice before winning the lottery.

Actually, the first thing you should do upon winning the lottery to remain anonymous is … hire a lawyer.

Ohio does allow for anonymous claiming of winnings, but only in certain circumstances. Under Ohio Revised Code 3770.07(A)(1), only three types of individuals can claim the winning prize: the holder of the winning ticket, the representative of the estate of a deceased person who had the winning ticket or the trustee of a trust. In each case, the name of the claimant is a public record, subject to inspection by the public and news media.

If the trustee of a trust is claiming the prize, the trustee must provide the Ohio Lottery Commission with the name, address, and Social Security number of each trust beneficiary (the real lottery winners) for federal and state income tax reporting purposes.

So how can it be anonymous? Under that same statute, if it is a trustee that claims the winning prize, the information for each of the beneficial owners of the trust is declared confidential, and it cannot be released as a public record unless the beneficial owner consents in writing to be named. In other words, the trustee’s name is made public, but not the true beneficial owners of the trust unless they want to be.

Basically, a lawyer needs to create a trust with a generic name that can’t be traced to you, and you need to have someone else (presumably that same lawyer) to act as the publicly named trustee for you to claim the winnings anonymously.

Thought for the Week: “My wife said to me: ‘If you won the lottery, would you still love me?’ I said: ‘Of course I would. I’d miss you, but I’d still love you.’” — Frank Carson, Irish comedian

It’s The Law is written by attorney Mark K. McCown in response to legal questions received by him. If you have a question, please forward it to Mark K. McCown, 311 Park Avenue, Ironton, Ohio 45638, or e-mail it to him at LawyerMark@yahoo.com. The right to condense and/or edit all questions is reserved.