5 things to do if your office pool plays Mega Millions’ $1B jackpot

WASHINGTON — “If we win, we won’t have to show up for work on Monday” — that fantasy is likely being stoked among co-workers in thousands of workplaces (including the WTOP newsroom) as they team up to buy tickets for Friday night’s Mega Millions jackpot, which now stands at $1 billion.

“Pooling your money to buy lottery tickets can create a lot of camaraderie among your office workers and friends,” said Daniel Ruttenberg, an estate-planning attorney for high net worth individuals with SmolenPlevy, in Tysons Corner, Virginia.

“You’re going to have a lot more issues to deal with, if you actually win.”

Ruttenberg said co-workers who want to go in on a Mega Millions pool likely won’t be thinking about protecting their fortune before they buy their tickets.

“If you know you were going to win the lottery, you would certainly spend thousands to dollars to set up entities to ensure your privacy, and establish everyone’s governance rights, and rights to the money, but of course you’re not going to do that, because you don’t know that you’re going to win,” he said.

Here are Daniel Ruttenberg’s five tips for co-workers organizing a pool to play Mega Millions:

  1. Who’s on board?: “The only thing you want to do ahead of time in buying lottery tickets is establish proof of who is a member, and what your numbers are. A good idea would be to scan in a picture of the lottery ticket and email it to everyone in the group, so everyone knows what the numbers are.
  2. Protect your winning ticket: “If you actually win the lottery, one of the first things you should do is sign the back of the ticket, because tickets are bearer instruments (which means finders-keepers until it’s signed). Make sure to leave enough space after your name to write in ‘trustee’ or ‘manager,’ if you decide to claim the prize through an entity.”
  3. Keep it quiet: “You should not tell anyone you won the lottery, with the exception of an attorney or other professional who can help guide you through the process of claiming your prize.” Then, lock it someplace safe.
  4. Name it, before claiming it: “If a group of people wins the lottery, setting up an LLC (a Limited Liability Corporation) to claim the prize can have several significant advantages. First, it can help keep everyone’s identity anonymous. Secondly, some states only allow one ticket to be distributed, and that can have some very adverse tax consequences that you can avoid through an LLC.”
  5. Long-lost family members: “When you get some money, take a portion of it and put it into a trust to protect it from yourself and from others, such as family members, because sudden wealth is very challenging. There are too many stories of people who have lost all their lottery winnings in a very short period of time.”

According to John Hagerty with the Virginia Lottery, the cash option for the $1 billion annuity prize is an estimated $565.6 million.

Hagerty said the odds of hitting the jackpot in Mega Millions are 1 in 302,575,350.

The odds of winning any prize in Mega Millions are 1 in 24.

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Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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